Starting tomorrow, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization – better known as CAMPO – begins asking for the public’s ideas on a series of projects.
Some projects are being dropped, while others are being picked up for consideration.
CAMPO Director Maureen McCoy says “a project for specific improvements on State Highway 71 East” is among the projects being halted in the CAMPO 2035 plan. “And what is being done is it’s being replaced by a project that is going to be express lanes on that same stretch of roadways.”Express lanes are the lanes where tolls vary according to the amount of traffic on the road.
Since CAMPO is a regional authority, some of the projects being added will not be visible from Travis County. They are interconnected to the extent that they affect commuters across Central Texas. McCoy is particularly interested in the public’s input on a request from Hays County to add two particular projects: one on Turnersville Road and one on FM 1826, “to the illustrative list of [CAMPO’s] long range transportation plan.”
The projects from Hays County are long-term. That means it may take as many as seven years just to plan them.
Travis County commissioner Sarah Eckhardt serves on CAMPO’s board. She says in those instances, people often get “exhausted” of talking about projects that are invisible and intangible even after years of public comment. “Admittedly the information is dry, heavily numbers-based. It’s copious.”
But Eckhardt says the board takes the public’s input seriously and sometimes that input can reshape a project. She remembers a particular bike project just a few months ago in Hays County.
"I do recall Tommy Eaton coming and giving testimony with several of the other bicycle activists with regard to how the project would be better handled. And I believe it was changed based on their recommendations," Eckhardt said.
CAMPO will hold meetings through next week in Marble Falls, Buda, Georgetown, Travis County and Del Valle. But, precisely because the meetings can be, as Eckhardt calls them, “dry” often few people show up to give input.
CAMPO’s Bryce Bencivengo says it’s not that people don’t care about transportation. It’s a matter of understanding ways they can become engaged. CAMPO just hired Bencivengo as the new Community Engagement Coordinator.
“We want to increase our presence on social media because that’s where the people, especially in Austin and in our region, can be found," Bencivengo said.
He hopes in the future people “can interface with [CAMPO] right at their fingertips on their phone, their laptop, their computer.”
Another opportunity to interact with CAMPO comes Friday morning. The group will present its 2040 plan at the Palmer Events Center in Austin. The event starts at 8 a.m. and goes through 10:30 a.m. A full list of this week’s events is available here.