CAMPO hammers last nail in Lone Star Rail coffin


The Lone Star Rail District died, in the end, with a whimper.

The board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, after a discussion lasting perhaps five minutes, on a voice vote Monday evening removed from its long-range transportation plan the project for a commuter rail from San Antonio to Georgetown. Of the board members present, only Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea stood by the 13-year-old district and officially abstained from voting.

In a concession to the idea that a rail in the rapidly growing corridor might someday make sense, the board later discussed using some or all of $9 million in leftover money from the project for a feasibility study to explore other possible endeavors along that corridor.

What kind of endeavors? Shea asked.

Well, perhaps a managed toll lane on Interstate 35, CAMPO executive director Ashby Johnson said, or maybe working with Amtrak to increase its twice-a-day service along the corridor on Union Pacific’s freight line. A study, if the CAMPO board authorizes it, would look at those and other options for moving people in the I-35 corridor.

The board could get an opportunity to take that vote as soon as December, Johnson said.

Lone Star’s demise had been a foregone conclusion since the CAMPO board in August voted 17-1 to ask the Texas Department of Transportation to withhold any more funds from the district, which had been overseeing various studies of a possible rail line since 2003 (some occurred before its formation) and spent about $28 million doing so. That August vote brought to a halt an ongoing environmental study of the line.

Supporters of the district argued that stopping that study and removing the rail project from CAMPO’s 2040 plan would delay rail in the Austin-San Antonio corridor “for at least another generation,” as district board chairman Sid Covington said in a statement distributed at the meeting.

But the district, which under the state law allowing its creation lacked the significant taxation authority needed for a project costing $2 billion or more, floundered through the years to get beyond good intentions. Political support for it collapsed completely in February when Union Pacific said that it would no longer discuss allowing the commuter trains to run on its existing freight line. That line cuts through the heart of all the cities involved and thus had been almost the sole focus of study for more than 20 years.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Judge permanently bars Texas from enforcing ‘discriminatory’ ID law
Judge permanently bars Texas from enforcing ‘discriminatory’ ID law

A federal judge Wednesday tossed out the Texas voter ID law, saying changes recently adopted by the Legislature fell short of fixing a law that was drafted to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi issued an injunction permanently barring Texas from enforcing its voter ID requirements...
Family: Man killed Wednesday was second brother shot dead in Austin
Family: Man killed Wednesday was second brother shot dead in Austin

A man who died from gunshot wounds Wednesday afternoon in North Austin is the second brother in his family to be shot and killed, according to his older brothers. Police declined to confirm the victim’s identity Wednesday, but two people at the scene identified him as their brother, 30-year-old Benson Briseño. Police got a 911 call about...
Suspect shot, ran over victim in North Austin homicide, police say

Austin police on Wednesday named a suspect in a weekend homicide — in which the victim was shot in the face and run over — but they think he fled to Mexico. Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Gustavo Linan, 28, on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of 35-year-old Valente Garcia-Hernandez, with bail set at $1 million...
DA appeals Kleinert police shooting case to U.S. Supreme Court
DA appeals Kleinert police shooting case to U.S. Supreme Court

Exercising its final legal option, the Travis County district attorney’s office on Wednesday filed a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal Charles Kleinert’s police-involved shooting case from 2013. Wanting to bring criminal charges against Kleinert for killing Larry Jackson — an unarmed black man who was trying to...
Man in his 60s ‘swept away’ at Colorado River found dead, EMS says

EAST AUSTIN EMS: Man swept by current found dead A man in his 60s was found dead Wednesday afternoon after he was reportedly swept away by a current at the Colorado River, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. The man went missing around 4:10 p.m., not far from the Longhorn Dam. A person who was with the man at the time saw the victim go under the...
More Stories