Sarah Eckhardt’s Statement on State Highway 45 Southwest

Posted on in Press Releases
Sarah Eckhardt, a Democrat running for Travis County Judge, offered the following testimony at Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, October 22, regarding State Highway 45 Southwest:

“Thank you, Judge, for allowing me to speak today. Thank you, Commissioner Daugherty, for including reference to “Green Mobility” in your original resolution. And, thanks to my commissioner, Bruce Todd, for including the environmental history of this project in the resolution as well as a commitment to sound budget principles should the Court choose to fund this state highway with local property taxes. These changes improve the resolution. But, the timing of this resolution nevertheless reduces the leverage of this Court.

It comes as no surprise to this Court that I oppose building State Highway 45SW. I served on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) for six years and have been on the front lines against an increasing majority in favor of this road.

 I don’t think we should sacrifice our natural beauty, air and water quality, biodiversity, and neighborhood character to build SH 45 SW. But it seems likely, based on the makeup of CAMPO and the current makeup of this Court, that 45SW will be built. I implore you as a Court to demand of TxDOT and the CTRMA that the roadway set the bar for environmentally sensitive and contextual design so that the degradation of air and water quality is held to an absolute minimum and local treasures like Flint Ridge Cave and the Wildflower Center remain protected. And, I implore you as a Court to consider the larger transportation implications of this road – how it impacts IH35, MoPac and Lone Star Rail.

As you all well know, we have no land use authority. If we had, no responsible land use plan would have allowed this level of development atop a critical water recharge zone and endangered species habitat. Travis County and the City of Austin attempted to dissuade development by withholding roadway infrastructure and by the outright purchase of large portions of land. Nevertheless, development occurred on both sides of the Travis/Hays county line. And now, not surprisingly, that development clamors for a better connection between their homes and their work.

Central Texans must find a way to live in and move through our environment without destroying it.

Rail is the best option. Lone Star Rail is poised to serve the same population that 45SW would serve. In a couple of weeks this Court will have another vote on Lone Star Rail. Please support it.

I reluctantly admit, building SH 45SW as a limited access toll way with congestion pricing may be another option. But, only if the considerable revenue generated from such a toll way funds two critical elements – One, the engineering necessary to hold the environmental damage to an absolute minimum, and two, the operation and maintenance of Lone Star Rail and connected bus service in the IH35 and MoPac corridors.

Please think past the politics of the today to the policy solutions for a better tomorrow. Please move us to a better balance between transportation and the environment. Please do your part to find ways to live in and move through our environment without destroying it.”

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