The Main Point: State Highway expansion 45 could be solution for Austin commuters
With the ever-increasing influx of commuters on the Austin corridor roadways, Hays and Travis Counties need to combine resources and implement an extension for State Highway 45 Southwest in the near future.
According to a June 27 University Star article, expansion plans for the highway are on pace to continue, although they were recently removed from the Imagine Austin plan by the Austin City Council. The much-needed project will connect Loop 1, also known as MoPac Expressway, to FM 1626 with a two to three lane county road.
The Hays County Commissioners should be praised for renewing their support on the highway expansion and offering up to $5 million toward the project. The estimated $17 to $20 million project will likely cause extra traffic congestion while construction takes place, but will be well worth the price tag upon completion. The highway extension will significantly ease traffic conditions for the hundreds of faculty, staff and students who commute to Texas State from Austin each day for classes.
This fall, student commuters will have to pay $105 for a perimeter parking pass, which is $10 more than last year. Faculty and staff will see a cost growth of $40 for restricted parking permits to $265, according to information from Parking Services. If the commuter and restricted parking pass rates continue to rise going forward, Texas State commuters from Austin need to continue to receive the most benefit for their money. The highway expansion will provide a quicker route to ensure faculty, staff and students will get to class on time and save gas.
In addition to commuters who drive vehicles to Texas State, the university tram system can also benefit from a highway extension for the Austin routes. According to a November 29 University Star article, the Austin route on the university tram system experienced a ridership growth of 25 percent with service to between 800 and 900 passengers last year. The Austin routes are likely to experience even greater ridership throughout the upcoming years, partly due to the job boom in Austin and the university’s population surge. The highway extension will shorten the length of the bus trips back and forth to Austin.
Although the highway expansion will be a great addition in the long run, there are some alternatives that can be done now to help relieve traffic in South Austin. For instance, freight trucks can be given waivers or discounts to take the 130 toll road around Austin, among other options.
However, the Imagine Austin Citizen’s Advisory Task Force recently posed concern for the possibility of increased traffic and pollution runoff into the nearby aquifer from new highway plans. The potential for runoff many years down the road should not outweigh the need to resolve the excess pollution produced by cars stalled in traffic daily. With more environmental research and campaign programs to stress the importance of carpooling, the possibility of a SH-45 expansion could be the solution Hays and Travis counties need to clear the frustration on the roadways.