Candidates Battle over Transportation

November 1, 2012 5:30 am by: Joy Diaz

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The results of the Nov. 6 elections will determine the priorities for Austin and Travis County. One of the top concerns in the area is transportation infrastructure. The Texas Department of Transportation has no money to build new roads. It spends what it gets from tax money just doing repairs and maintenance. Different ideas on how to do just that are colliding in the race for Travis County Commissioner.

Democrat Karen Huber and Republican Gerald Daugherty are running for county commissioner in Precinct 3. She’s the incumbent. He has held that seat before but lost it to Huber in 2008.

Their approach to transportation is one of the main things that separate them.

Gerald Daugherty’s unofficial campaign slogan is “Build SH45 now.” And it resonates with some constituents.

State Highway 45 Southwest was proposed decades ago as part of a ring road around Austin. Construction isn’t scheduled to begin for years.

Daugherty volunteer Bill Pointe was campaigning recently in southwest Austin. He told Janet Cosper, who lives on heavily trafficked Brodie Lane, that a vote for his candidate would get the road built.

“You think Gerald is really committed to doing this?” Cosper said. “Yeah. I think he’s definitely someone we need to get back into office because he is committed to getting this State Highway 45 built,” Pointe said.

Karen Huber has said she does not oppose building SH 45 Southwest. But her stand on the roadway has been somewhat unclear. She says she wants to wait for the results of a federal environmental study.

“The environmental process, it sets forth that to use federal dollars the corridor has to be looked at and several different alternatives studied in there,” said Maureen McCoy, head of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which recently voted to keep SH 45 Southwest in its long-term road plan. “That is a multiyear process, but it has begun.”

McCoy says SH 45 Southwest should open sometime after 2020. And no matter who wins the county commissioner seat Tuesday, that date is unlikely to change.

“Our transportation policy board is a 19-member board, made up primarily of elected officials from throughout the five-county CAMPO region,” McCoy said. “So, as an elected official who serves on the CAMPO board, they would have one of 19 votes.”

Nevertheless, SH 45 Southwest still divides not just the candidates in this race but residents all over Travis County.

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