CNA letter to ANC-East re Resolution Supporting Alternative Plans for I-35 through Central Texas

ResourcesSeveral member neighborhoods in ANC-East, including Blackland, prepared a resolution on I-35 through central Texas and submitted it for consideration by the Eastern Sector of the Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC East).  The Steering Committee has several concerns with the resolution and sent the letter below to  ANC-East Chair Daniel Llanes on June 10.

Jennifer Potter-Miller distributed the letter and raised some of CNA’s questions at the group’s June 11 meeting. After some discussion the resolution was passed by consent.  It will be submitted to the Austin Neighborhoods Council at their June 25 meeting and considered later in the summer. The CNA letter has been shared with ANC President Mary Ingle, and the neighborhood will call a Special Meeting soon to develop an official position on the Mobility 35 proposals.

Dear Mr. Llanes,

I am writing on behalf of the Cherrywood Neighborhood Association (CNA) Steering Committee to respond to the undated resolution titled, “Resolution Supporting Alternative Plans for I-35 through Central Texas” (“Resolution”), submitted to you by Bo McCarver. I understand this Resolution will be considered at your June 10, 2014, meeting and potentially sent to the ANC for action. Officially, CNA has not had time to engage a sufficient number of residents and business owners on the subject of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TXDOT) proposed changes to I-35 to vote on the Resolution.

Please consider postponing your discussion of this resolution until the CNA can fully engage in the conversation. If ANC-East does take action on this Resolution on June 10, the CNA cannot offer support or opposition at this time. The CNA SC does offer the following comments for your review, and response. I have added comments in italics and strikethrough [red] font below.

General CNA SC consensus on these Resolution statements (unless marked):

– Whereas, congestion continues to mount on the I-35 corridor in Central Texas and it is no longer adequate to support the economy and culture of the region (more documentation is needed to validate the second half of this statement)

– Whereas, TXDOT and local governmental entities have failed to provide a viable, long-range plan for the corridor that embraces mass transit options such as commuter rail on I-35, U.S. 290 and Texas 71

– Whereas, the current critical situation has historically evolved and been fostered by ineffective, outdated transportation concepts that overly rely on highways

– Whereas, current efforts to address the situation by TXDOT and their consultants focus solely on adding lanes, reconstructing interchanges and other features that only invite more vehicular traffic and perpetuate the problem

– Whereas, the current effort to provide inter-city commuter rail by local entities could be greatly enhanced by integration with a regional transportation system that embraces commuter rail on all major corridors to include I-35, U.S. 290 and Texas 71 (more documentation is needed to validate the second half of this statement)

– Whereas, the “highway-centric” projects proposed by these organizations, if executed, will may conflict with yet-developed, long-range plans and thwart development of a truly multi-modal transportation system that integrates commuter transit with rubber-tire modes

– Whereas, the present efforts by discordant entities will be insufficient to accommodate future movement of people and goods through the Central Texas I-35 Corridor, may result in a futile waste an inefficient use of transportation funding and time, and jeopardize the economic and cultural vitality of the region

– Whereas, the current effort to provide inter-city commuter rail by local entities could be greatly enhanced by integration with a regional transportation system that embraces commuter rail on all major corridors to include I-35, U.S. 290 and Texas 71

The following Resolution statements are not supported due to a lack of documentation (please provide us documentation):

– Whereas, highway and real estate interests have contributed heavily to election of state and local officials to the point that and many are predisposed to support only highway-based transportation measures

– Whereas, “revolving door” hiring policies by TXDOT and their consultant, HNTB, have muddled their organizational lines and muted consideration of innovative transportation solutions

– Whereas, the local TXDOT district has historically constructed poor designs such as the “jug handle” at 51st/I-35 and the flyover from northbound I-35 to U.S. 183 that worsen congestion (We would support language: “designs show a lack of ability to address complicated situations and to plan for the future”)

– Whereas, current efforts do not consider conversion of Texas 130 from tolled to free lanes (please provide resources explaining how free lanes on Texas 130 will address transportation problems)

The following Resolution statements are beyond the scope of the Mobility35 project and more documentation is needed:

– Whereas, the “cap and cut” proposal for downtown Austin is largely cosmetic; offers no significant increase in capacity; and will accelerate displacement of low-income, heritage households from East Austin (The CNA has a standing position expressing support for the Reconnect Austin “Cut and Cap” proposal)

– Whereas, citizens will be asked to support bonds for intercity commuter rail lines and other local highway projects, that, without integration into a regional transportation system will be largely cosmetic (The CNA knows of no bonds pending which would address the Mobility35 Plan)

Additionally, the CNA Steering Committee objects to the conclusions drawn by this resolution as expressed, and asks that all language of this conclusion be replaced with this amended version of the conclusion of the Upper Boggy Creek Planning Area resolution, stating:

– Therefore, the ANC-East calls for a fresh approach and asks that all appropriate governmental entities contract with a professional and independent consultant team, versed in urban transportation systems and planning, that will not preclude the accommodation of rail in the I-35 corridor and would more fully explore the utilization of alternative routes in and around Austin

In summary, due to the time constraints and the lack of supporting documentation, the CNA Steering Committee does not support or oppose this Resolution in its current form. Instead, the CNA SC requests the consideration of these friendly revisions and additional documentation and solicits further opportunities to collaborate with ANC-East to advocate for the most effective transportation solutions to Austin’s mobility obstacles.

Thanks for your consideration,

Katie Pearl Halloran, Interim Chair, CNA

See PDF version the letter here.

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