HPNA Meeting Minutes – July 2014

HPNA Meeting Minutes: July 7, 2014

Lorre Weidlich, HPNA co-president, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. First, an announcement by Adam Wilson about the upcoming Shipe Pool Party on July 12 (see the story on p. 1). Adam mentioned current maintenance issues of the pump and leak in addition to the fact that Shipe Pool is among the few pools in Austin of an age and condition considered to be near the end of life. A report next month from staff of Parks and Recreation will inform a long-term plan for city aquatics. The question is whether the city will choose to maintain smaller neighborhood pools or move to larger centralized pools. Adam stressed that Friends of Shipe Park are advocating for all neighborhood pools.

The main order of business was transportation, the first of two issues being the light rail proposal. Scott Gross, Austin’s Urban Rail Program Manager, presented information regarding the recommended alternative of rail from Highland to Riverside. This is envisioned as just the initial corridor of a system of light rail. Current plans call for 16 stations and four park and ride stations, with estimated ridership of 18,000 weekday riders, resulting in 10,000 cars off the road each day. Alignment would be primarily at grade, with dedicated right of way. $22.1 million is the estimate of yearly operation and maintenance expenses, which would begin in 2022. Fares would cover about 22% of these expenses, with other funding coming from a variety of sources such as sales tax, federal money, and savings from duplicative services. For example, bus routes 7, 10, and 20 would be reworked or reduced/eliminated.

The Central Corridor Advisory Group took action on this recommendation and CapMetro endorsed it, as did the Austin City Council. In August, City Council is expected to finalize the language for a bond proposal, which will also include funds for roadway projects. The bond election would be held this November. Should the bond be approved, this would trigger a few years of study and refinement of plans, including environmental impact statement and details of alignment, station locations, bridges, and tunnels. For more details, visit projectconnect.com.

Scott Morris, from OurRail Political Action Committee, also spoke in favor of light rail, noting reduction of carbon and operation and maintenance costs per passenger mile that are less for rail than buses. However, disputing some of the data used by Project Connect, his group opposes the proposed northern section of the route, favoring instead the currently more dense Guadalupe-Lamar corridor. He argued that the city needs to stop using transportation infrastructure to shape speculative future growth. In other words, its approach needs to change from planning for future growth to serving the existing population.  For more on this group’s perspectives, visit centralaustincdc.org or ourrail.org.

Mike Pikulski, HPNA transportation chair, concluded the transportation presentations with an update on Mobility35. The purpose of this program is to identify and implement short- or mid-term strategies to improve mobility and connectivity along the I-35 corridor from Georgetown to San Marcos. Significant changes are under consideration. One change being studied is the addition of one lane in each direction of I-35, which could be a general purpose, HOV, or toll lane. One proposal would close the ramps at 32nd and 38th. Of much importance to Central Austin are proposed major changes to the frontage road and the entrance/exit ramps at Airport Boulevard and 51st Street. Improving east – west connectivity is also a major focus of planning. Improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists are seen as key by the Department of Transportation. More information is available at http://www.mobility35.org.

–Submitted by Artie Gold and Adrian Skinner

HPNA Co-Secretaries