in Houston, Texas
Austin-area 45 Southwest tollway vote in doubt due to error-filled report (updated)
Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012, 09:39AM CST
By Mike Cronin
road stripes

A vote on the future of a 3.6-mile toll road in Travis and Hays counties could be postponed after a study on the traffic effects of the potential highway was found to be riddled with errors, the Austin American-Statesman has reported.

“The report was rescinded because some of the data we received from (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) was found to be faulty,” Jennifer Duthie, the study’s author said in an e-mail to Texas Watchdog.

“We should be redoing the analysis in the next couple of months,” said Duthie, who is a research associate at the University of Texas Center for Transportation Research in Austin. The revisions may delay an October vote by CAMPO on whether to keep the roadway in a long-range planning document for the region.

CAMPO Director Maureen McCoy said that the report’s population and employment projections were “undoubtedly flawed.”

The study “assumed population and employment figures in 2025 in about half of the area studied in southern Travis County and northern Hays County would decrease over the next 13 years. That would fly in the face of predictions of continued growth throughout Central Texas,” the Statesman reported.

Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, a CAMPO board member, told the Statesman she didn’t think it prudent to make any decision on whether to build the road until the board has sound numbers.

Eckhardt joined a majority of the Commissioners Court in calling for Texas 45 Southwest to be taken out of CAMPO's 25-year plan.

"It's not just road warriors who are concerned with the validity of these statistics, and it's not just the environmentalists,” she told the American-Statesman.

CAMPO and the Texas Department of Transportation paid for the study, Duthie said.

The report is a product of UT’s Network Modeling Center, McCoy said. She could not provide the study’s specific cost. But McCoy said CAMPO has provided the center $2 million during a four-year period.

The mistake-ridden study was “not a wasted effort,” Duthie said. “The model (preparation) will be useful for the next round.”

Many Central Texans had hoped the report would reveal whether building the tollway would really mitigate road congestion, and whether it might pollute the Edwards Aquifer, which provides drinking water to 60,000 people.

Updated (5:41 p.m.): This version of the story includes a link to the flawed report.

***
Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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