Transit advocate hopes to push toll road agency beyond highways


Highlights

Travis County commissioners named John Langmore to the CTRMA board, and reappointed David Armbrust.

Langmore, an attorney and transportation consultant, served on the Capital Metro board from 2009 to 2014.

County Judge Eckhardt sees the Langmore appointment as an opening for the agency to expand beyond tollways.

John Langmore, part of a Capital Metro board that helped stabilize the transit agency several years ago when its finances, leadership and reputation were at low point, now will join the board overseeing the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

Travis County commissioners, who get three appointments to the toll agency’s board, voted Tuesday to name Langmore, a lawyer and transportation consultant, to the board. They also reappointed real estate lawyer David Armbrust, who has served on the mobility authority board since 2012. The vote in each case was unanimous.

Langmore, a vocal supporter of transit and passenger rail in particular, will replace economic consultant Charles Heimsath, who has been on the authority board for eight years. The change takes effect Thursday.

Both Langmore and Armbrust will serve two-year terms on the seven-member mobility authority board, which also has three members appointed by Williamson County and a chairman appointed by the governor. The term of Travis County’s third appointee, Nikelle Meade, does not end until next year.

RELATED: Travis County has been a battleground for CTRMA appointees

The mobility authority, under agreements with TxDOT, operates four tollways in Central Texas and has two more under construction. But County Judge Sarah Eckhardt noted that the 2001 state law allowing the creation of mobility authorities empowers them to spend money on transportation modes other than tolls, including transit.

The agency allows transit buses to run toll-free on its roads, and has built bike and pedestrian paths on each of its highway projects (though only on parts of North MoPac Boulevard). But mobility authority officials have been unenthusiastic about shouldering the considerable cost of building park-and-ride lots for suburban bus riders near its highway projects.

“John Langmore will provide the confidence the CTRMA needs to reach beyond toll roads,” Eckhardt said in a text, “to move people and goods in every manner — cars, buses, trains, even airports.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea, who has criticized the board as being too heavily tilted toward real estate interests, moved Tuesday to appoint former Rollingwood Alderwoman Amy Pattillo. Pattillo had served on a citizen committee involved with the design of potential toll lanes on South MoPac and had raised objections on behalf of her small city about raised bridges planned for the highway as it passes Bee Cave Road and Rollingwood.

RELATED: Here’s how much the MoPac project ended up costing

The Pattillo appointment deadlocked 2-2, with Commissioner Jeff Travillion joining Shea, and Commissioners Gerald Daugherty and Margaret Gómez opposed. Eckhardt abstained.

Then Gómez nominated Langmore. Shea noted that Langmore, 55, is close to mobility authority executive director Mike Heiligenstein and had been a staff member for then-state Rep. Mike Krusee, a Williamson County Republican who carried the 2001 legislation that led to the creation of the mobility authority.

“That is not a problem, per se,” said Shea, who ultimately voted for the Langmore appointment. “But I feel like we don’t need another member of the club. I think it is crucial that we have people who can push back.”

Gomez said that Langmore “doesn’t go along to get along. And he looks at the mobility of the whole community.”

Langmore, in an interview with the Statesman, said the mobility, which has borrowed more than $1 billion on the bond market for its various projects, legally must abide by the financial constraints of those loan agreements.

“However, just building toll roads will not resolve Central Texas’ mobility issues,” he said. “I would hope that collectively with the other board members we would start to look beyond that.”



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