A Good Idea and A Stupid Idea

First up, there’s a study commissioned by TXDOT that advocates tolling a lane on I35, changing it’s designation and shifting it the designation to TX 130 from Georgetown to Buda.

From the stand point of relieving congestion through Austin Metro, this is probably the only thing that will work. However, the plan should not convert an existing lane of 35 into a toll facility, a new lane should be constructed and TX 130 should be expanded to three lanes in each direction. Taking those steps should significantly relieve congestion in Austin.

The question many will ask is why even toll a lane on I35? Well, we’ve bonded the hell out of 130 and it’s not going well. So, for taxpayers not to get soaked, there’s this. This is a solution that makes sense. Terri Hall of TURF is not pleased and most of that is based off the potential for abuse here. However, this is one area where we could have some positive control over the conversion, add capacity to the system and relieve congestion in real time. In other words, it’s a fantastic idea that almost certainly will not be implemented. The only irritating thing about the Ben Wear piece that Terri quoted was this…

In general, the report says that addressing the I-35 situation and achieving the many changes suggested — including building a commuter rail line between Georgetown and San Antonio — would require $487 billion by 2030. But projected revenue is $155 billion , the report says, leaving a $332 billion gap. That represents about 40 years of TxDOT’s $8 billion annual budget.

We keep constantly hearing the wild, outsized estimates of budget gaps but there’s never anything solid about them. Again, Wear completely lets this slip as if we really are a third of a trillion in the hole in terms of infrastructure. That’s just stupid. With that kind of money, the only system I can conceive of is one in which you will never sit in traffic. EVER. Obviously, that’s dumb. So, can we FINALLY see some details on this budget estimate?

Now comes the horrendous idea… Austin is being asked to invest in two more reactors at the South Texas Nuke. It’s very likely that nuclear is going to be a part of our clean energy future, but still in the US we do not have a way to efficiently recycle fuel. Which means there’s a waste problem that’s yet to be solved. Further, the City is being asked to make a long term financial commitment at a time when the technological landscape is changing dramatically in terms of materials science, efficiency and storage.

Usually, I love long term investments but this is a turkey. Too many problems and it’ll be coming on line right about the time we all start putting efficient solar plants on our roofs. It’s a problem we’ll all be paying to fix through decades of higher utility bills or taxes. Council should tell NRG ‘not so much, but thanks’.

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