You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Fate of Texas 45 Southwest toll road project now in judge’s hands


Highlights

Judge heard arguments in one-day trial over Texas 45 Southwest, MoPac projects. Ruling to come.

A dozen plaintiffs argue the environmental impact of three road projects should have been studied together.

Two road agencies say the segment for Texas 45 Southwest has been sufficiently studied.

Opponents of plans to build the Texas 45 Southwest toll road returned to federal court on Wednesday, asking a judge to stop the project now under construction and send planners back to the drawing board.

Critics have long argued the 3.6 mile-long toll road, the subject of fierce debate in Austin for three decades, would harm the environment. Supporters and transportation planners have countered the fears are overblown and argued the additional infrastructure is badly needed.

RELATED: A primer on the court battle over Texas 45 Southwest, MoPac

A dozen plaintiffs, including several Austin environmental groups and former mayors Carol Keeton and Frank Cooksey, charge the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and Texas Department of Transportation improperly separated the study on the toll road’s environmental impact from two other nearby proposals: adding toll lanes to the southern portion of MoPac Boulevard and new underpasses for the MoPac intersections at Slaughter Lane and La Crosse Avenue.

Only by looking at the impact of all three projects together, they argue, could officials certify the total package of road projects would not endanger the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone that feeds Barton Springs or the habitat of federally protected species, such as the golden-cheeked warbler.

RELATED: Will song of a single bird delay an Austin highway?

“The cumulative impacts of these cumulative projects need to be addressed in a single analysis,” argued attorney Renea Hicks (no relation to the reporter). He later pointed to the traffic analysis done for Texas 45 Southwest, which included the other projects, and said: “If they’re together for traffic, they’re together for environmental (review).

His argument was continued by attorney Bill Bunch, the executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, which is one of the plaintiffs.

“There is not a single traffic study that looks at what happens if you just build (Texas) 45,” Bunch added.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who presided over the one-day trial Wednesday, did not indicate when he would issue a ruling.

But he heard many of the same arguments last October when he rejected the plaintiffs’ bid for an injunction to prevent land-clearing until the case came to trial. Yeakel ruled then that the plaintiffs had “failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success” in the case, a ruling upheld by appellate judges two weeks later.

Land-clearing began in November and now construction on the road has begun.

RELATED: The long and winding road to Texas 45 SW groundbreaking

Attorneys representing the road authorities repeatedly pointed to their October win in their arguments Wednesday afternoon.

“Not only has nothing changed,” attorney Casey Dobson told Yeakel, “you’ve already been affirmed on the point.”

Regional transportation officials have long included the segment — nearly identical to the proposed Texas 45 Southwest — in plans that call for a southern link between MoPac and the region’s other major freeway, Interstate 35.

But for as long as those plans have existed, so have its critics. A previous, similar federal lawsuit was settled in 1992. Area voters backed spending bond money on the project in 1997.

“This road has been studied long enough,” Dobson said. “It has been studied by the right people under the right standards.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Power company reporting electrical outages east of Austin

Update: A Bluebonnet spokesman said that as of 3:30 p.m. electrical power had been restored to all but 17 households that had experienced the outage. A cell of thunderstorms east of Austin is the most likely culprit for an electrical outage affecting about 600 people, a spokesman for Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative said. Will Holford said 577 customers...
Victims of fatal single-car crash in Burnet County identified
Victims of fatal single-car crash in Burnet County identified

Authorities have identified driver Lila Acosta, 34, of El Paso and passenger Audrey Regnold, 31, of Marble Falls as the victims of a fatal single-car crash that occurred Saturday afternoon on U.S. 281 near Park Road 4 in Burnet County. STAY ON TOP OF THE NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Breaking News emails The Texas Department of Public Safety...
California woman finds frog in her salad
California woman finds frog in her salad

A California woman found an unpleasant addition to her salad earlier this month, as she uncovered a dead frog nestled inside the lettuce. >> Read more trending news  Shawna Cepeda was dining at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in West Covina and noticed her salad had a bitter taste, according to a Yelp review she posted on June 13...
Storms roll through Bastrop, Elgin
Storms roll through Bastrop, Elgin

Update 1:30 p.m. Rainstorms, some heavy, are rolling through Bastrop and Elgin right now with scattered showers expected for the rest of the afternoon. “We’re not expecting anything severe,” said Yvette Benavides, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “It’ll be ongoing for the next several hours, but then die off in...
Emails chart how ‘Mad Men’ archive landed at UT’s Ransom Center
Emails chart how ‘Mad Men’ archive landed at UT’s Ransom Center

An archive of props, clothing, scripts and abandoned story lines from a TV series might not seem at first blush to embody the literary, cultural or artistic significance of the Gutenberg Bible, Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” or any number of other holdings at the University of Texas’ Harry...
More Stories