Citizens oppose SH-130 routes
By LPR Staff
Caldwell County residents came out in force last Wednesday to oppose plans for State Highway 130.
Representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) hosted a public meeting last week to share information and hear concerns about the controversial highway, which plans to run a 90-mile course from Georgetow
n to Seguin. The purpose of the toll road will be to relieve traffic on IH-35 through the Austin-San Antonio corridor. The state received approval to move forward with right-of-way purchase through Caldwell County in December 2004.
More than 300 residents attended the meeting to voice concerns over the proposed highway, which will run concurrently with Highway 183 until near Plum Creek, where it will veer westward, bypassing Lockhart as it runs through rural Caldwell County. The concern that the road might be designated a “hazardous materials route” dominated most of the conversation, second only to the concern about Lockhart”s main access to Austin becoming a toll road.
“We are committed to making sure there is an alternative rout to Austin,” said TxDOT”s turnpike design engineer Terron Evertson. “Our plans include an access road with a bridge over Highway 21, so that Caldwell County residents will have a free, alternative route.”
Despite Evertson”s assurances, residents are still concerned about traffic congestion, tollway access and commuter inconvenience.
“Hundreds of people commute to Austin,” one concerned speaker said. “It”s going to be bad for them to have 183 torn up for months on end while the new highway is being built.”
Lockhart Mayor James Bertram expressed another concern.
“Please, please make sure that Segment 6 (the segment of the highway that runs from FM1185 through Caldwell County) is opened in conjunction with Segment 5 (the portion of the project from Austin through southern Travis and northern Caldwell Counties),” he said. “If Segment 5 opens before Segment 6 is ready, there is no way [Lockhart] can handle that kind of traffic.”
Because the route has been proposed to relieve congestion in Austin, several people are concerned that it could be deemed a “hazardous materials route.” This would mean that trucks hauling hazardous chemicals would be diverted to SH-130 around Austin as a matter of course.
“It”s very cumbersome to have a road declared a hazardous materials route,” Evertson said. “Local governments can do it, or the department can do it, but anyone that lives within a 25 mile radius could get involved.”
Evertson stated there were no plans at this time to have the route declared a “HazMat,” but it could be requested at any time. Still, he assured the people that Caldwell County would have a voice in the matter.
“But are we going to have the same voice as Austin,” asked County Judge H.T. Wright. “If they ask for it to be a hazardous materials route, are we going to have the same say that they do? We”ve never had the same voice before!”
TxDOT representatives presented three alternative routes for SH-130 through Caldwell County, one being the original route proposed several years ago, a second setting aside a “corridor” for future development on the west side of the highway, and a third setting aside the “corridor” on the east.
“We can”t say yet whether we have a plan,” Evertson said. “We are looking at all the alternatives, but haven”t committed to one yet.”
Representatives said the “east” route looks preferable on the surface, as it affects slightly fewer homes and businesses. However, until the project is funded by the Texas Transportation Commission, no definite plans will be made.
TxDOT did commit to helping Caldwell County residents displaced by the highway to find new homes. As the bid process begins, likely in the winter of next year, property owners will be informed as to the nature of TxDOT”s offers on their property. After offers are confirmed and land deals made, TxDOT will provide financial assistance to help property owners move, and to help businesses relocate. However, they cautioned, only residents who are living or doing business on the property at the time the purchase offer is made will be eligible for relocation assistance.
Evertson expects that the segments surrounding Austin will be complete an open to traffic in December 2007. In the winter of 2006, he estimates TxDOT will begin acquiring right-of-way through Caldwell County for construction to begin shortly thereafter.
To voice your concerns about SH-130, contact your state representatives:
Texas State Senator – Ken Armbrister, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, Texas 78711 (512) 463-0118
Texas State Representative – Patrick M. Rose, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, Texas 78768 (512) 463-0647.