What follows is a response from
Mark Herber, Project Manager at the Texas Department of Transportation to questions posted to the Allandale listserve regarding what’s in the works for Mopac.

Begin message:

Thank you for passing along the inquiry from the concerned
resident.  I appreciate the opportunity to "shed some additional
light on the subject." I will address the questions and statements (in "quotes" below) point
by point.


"I just read the ANA message from
Frances
about the upcoming "Open House" meetings regarding TxDOT plans for
developing MoPac between Parmer and Cesar Chavez."

Thank you for spreading the word, Frances.
Effective public involvement will be critical to the project’s success.
The first project open houses are scheduled for September 19th at Summitt

Elementary School (the Great Hall),
and September 21st at O. Henry Middle School (cafeteria), both from 5-8 PM.  TxDOT will not be using the
traditional public meeting format, in that we will not have a formal
presentation, and the content presented at the two open houses will be
identical.  People can attend the open house that best suits their
schedule, and spend as much time as they like discussing the project directly
with team members.  We want to gather input on the public’s concerns about
the corridor, and how they would like to see them addressed; then we will
develop corridor alternatives and a schematic design for the proposed
improvements, keeping these concerns in mind.  (Note: A schematic is a
plan of proposed changes.)


"I don’t recall this having been on the CAMPO docket for any kind of
public review or hearing, does anyone know?"

Improvements along the MoPac corridor are included in the CAMPO 2030 Mobility
Plan, which was approved by the CAMPO board in June 2005 after considerable
public input.  John Kelly, the manager of TxDOT’s consultant team for the
project, made a presentation to the CAMPO board on August 14, 2006, to bring them up to date on
TxDOT’s approach to implementing the improvements included in the CAMPO 2030
Mobility Plan. 

Proposed corridor improvements will be developed considering public input
gathered during 1999-2001 (the previous MoPac/US 183 study), as well as through
public input received for the current project.  In addition to the open
houses described above, we will have open houses later this year, or early next
year (dates still to be determined), where we will present information about
the improvements proposed for Loop 1, and a preliminary
schematic design for public review. 

The MoPac 1 project includes an extensive public involvement program to gather
public input for this project, including open houses, noise education forums,
presentations to neighborhood associations and community groups, interviews and
meetings with corridor stakeholders, MoPac 1-to-ONE meetings (informal
functions where the public can meet with the project team to discuss the
project), community surveys, a project web site that will be operational within
a couple of weeks, a Project Information Line (512-498-7700), a project
newsletter, and other project information that will be available to the public
in electronic and printed formats.  Project team members have been meeting
with community groups, neighborhood associations and individuals for the past
several months to gather information for this project; and to prepare for the
first set of open houses, to be held later this month (September.) 

After the second round of open houses we plan to proceed to a formal public hearing
on the project, which is tentatively scheduled for sometime in the middle of
2007.  At the public hearing we would present information on alternatives
that have been considered to improve Loop 1, an
evaluation of the environmental consequences of the alternatives and a
preferred alternative for the corridor.


"It appears from the wording of the "invitation" that a project
has already been developed without going through the CAMPO meeting and review
process."

The MoPac 1 project is being developed in response to the recommendations for Loop
1 included in the adopted CAMPO 2030 Mobility Plan.   TxDOT’s project
involves the development and evaluation of alternatives for Loop 1, including a
possible "managed lane" in each direction on Loop 1, as described in
the adopted plan; and completion of an environmental analysis process in
compliance with state and federal regulations.  So it is not close to
finalization.  TxDOT welcomes and encourages public participation as we
develop this project.  We have carefully reviewed what the community said
back in 2001, and we will be gathering additional public input through the
methods listed above while developing plans for the Loop
1 corridor. 

The project team is following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
process during project development.  Also, we are attempting to follow the
specific recommendations included in the resolutions related to Loop 1 adopted
by CAMPO in 2001 and in 2004 (2004 resolutions included in Appendix J of the
CAMPO 2030 Mobility Plan).  Due to the requirements of the NEPA process,
we cannot commit to following every point of every CAMPO resolution, but we
will attempt to follow all that we can, such as no new right-of-way acquired
from adjacent residences, and no elevated travel lanes in the corridor.


"It also looks like they have conveniently left out any kind of meeting
for the Allandale neighborhood group — why not have another one at
Gullett?"

For the public’s convenience, we strive to hold public involvement
opportunities in locations close to the project study area.  We also
strive to encourage participation from adjacent neighborhoods, and the users of
the facility.  For this first round of open houses, we decided to hold
them near the north and south ends of the project study area.  We
contacted numerous schools and other facilities located within the project
study area, but most were already reserved for other activities on these
dates.  In the future, we will consider Gullett
Elementary school as a meeting
location. 

Project team members are also available to meet with neighborhood groups and
individuals.  In fact, John Kelly is scheduled to meet with a small group
of neighbors who live on or near Great Northern
  Boulevard to discuss their specific
concerns.  We would be happy to meet with the Allandale Neighborhood
Association.  Please contact Steve Craddock at 498-7700 to set up a date
and time for a project presentation. 


"We don’t need a wider MoPac parking lot, or an upper deck running next to
our back yards!"

The purpose of the MoPac 1 project is to determine the best way to improve
mobility along the MoPac 1 corridor in a safe, efficient, reliable and
environmentally sensitive manner.  TxDOT is committed to working with the
public throughout this project to address community concerns, as well as
traffic congestion along MoPac.   

Any widening of MoPac to provide additional travel capacity would likely be
towards the middle of the corridor, since we do not plan on acquiring any
additional right-of-way outside of what we already own.  TxDOT is fully
aware that the adjacent neighborhoods are opposed to an "upper deck"
on MoPac.  Any proposed improvements for the corridor must be publicly
reviewed and must receive environmental clearance through the established NEPA
process before TxDOT would be authorized to spend public funds on the project
and proceed with construction.


"These possibilities have been proposed by TxDOT in the past — does
anyone know if this is part of "the project" that will be introduced
at these "Open House" meetings?"

Any alternatives developed to improve traffic conditions on MoPac must be
evaluated in compliance with NEPA requirements.  As stated previously,
TxDOT will not be presenting alternative solutions or preliminary schematic
designs at the first set of open houses, because we want to gather public input
before developing the alternatives.  Then we will develop a preliminary
conceptual plan, to discuss with the public at the second set of open houses
and other public involvement activities.


"Does anyone have any additional light to shed on the subject?"

I hope this sheds additional light on the issues raised by the Allandale
resident who posted their concerns.

I would like to take the opportunity to address another posting at this time.
The post and my response appears below.

"A major point for all to consider concerns how vehicles EXIT from MoPac
between Parmer and Cesar Chavez.  Increasing the number of lanes, even
"managed lanes," will only widen the space where vehicles are traveling
(or idling), if there are no construction changes made to allow a greater
number of vehicles to exit more quickly at the major intersections.  By
major intersections, I refer to 35th/38th, 24th/Windsor,

5th
  Street, and Cesar Chavez.  In other words, keep
in mind that adding managed lanes will only create a wider paring lot effect ON
MoPac, if something doesn’t change to augment the capacity needed for traffic
exiting FROM MoPac."

The efficient exiting of traffic from Loop 1 onto local
arterials and into downtown is a concern for TxDOT.  However, with the
exception of RM 2222, the cross-streets south of US 183 are under jurisdiction
and maintenance of the City of

Austin.
MoPac 1 does not include analysis of the traffic operations on city streets, or
the development of recommendations for improvements on these streets.
TxDOT is working with the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) at the University of Texas as part of a different
project to develop a data base of information about traffic operations on city
streets, and an approach to address these kinds of problems.  MoPac 1
project staff is coordinating their work with CTR.  Depending on the
results of the technical analysis and public input for the MoPac 1 project,
this issue may need to be addressed by the MoPac 1 project team.

I look forward to working with neighborhoods along MoPac corridor.  If
they have any further questions they should contact the consultant team
(498-7700) or myself.

Sincerely,

Mark Herber
Project Manager