inflates population numbers to encourage more
road-building By Roger
Baker * May 2002
CAMPO Road Planning Based on Bogus Growth Trends, According
to State Expert
CAMPO (and its previous incarnation as ATS) has had a
consistent habit, extending
back since at least the mid-1980's, of inflating the
population and employment estimates
that it uses for planning its future roads. Thus we find it
extrapolating the highest population trends from the State Data
Center, based on the high tech-based Austin area growth boom in
the 1990's. (In Williamson County the trends were largely based on
Dell Computer-related growth, which now does not expect to expand
there due to high central Texas costs compared to foreign
Why inflate the numbers? Federal law says that local MPO's,
like CAMPO, that get federal money must have a long range (20 or
25 year) plan. From this long range plan it can then choose the
roads that it wants to build quickly, via its three-year
transportation improvement program, or TIP.
The more roads CAMPO has in its long-range plan and the
further into the future they are planned, then more roads that can
be claimed to be needed, and the wider they will appear to need to
be. This federally sanctioned list of huge wide roads are
then eligible to be chosen to be built quickly, based on political
pressure from land speculation and development interests (like
Pete Winstead and the Real Estate Council). The long-range CAMPO
plan has lots of new transit and light rail in addition to
all its highways, but the rail never gets built while roads to
serve decades of future suburban sprawl growth seem to jump ahead
in priority. The billions of dollars in Williamson county
toll roads such as SH 130 being good examples. In fact, there is
also a pattern of raiding transit Cap Metro's funds to divert its
money from transit to roads, which cripples the funds needed for
the transit assumed in the CAMPO plan.
Exhibit A, below, explains that the the very high population
and employment trend estimates that CAMPO is using to
project a tripling of the population in Williamson County DO NOT
reflect current reality, according to a state data center expert
(the State Data Center is where CAMPO gets its population and
employment numbers, and from which it usually chooses the highest
of three sets of numbers; high, medium, and low).
The March 2002 CAMPO newsletter projects a 4.8% compounded
Williamson County growth rate between 2000 and 2025, when CAMPO
projects the county population to have grown from 250,000 to over
Exhibit B, below candidly reveals the cheerleading behind
local roadway planning according to Texas Turnpike Authority
Director Pete Winstead, (who was simultaneously also director of
the Real Estate Council of Austin, a prominent real estate lobby
group). Source is the official TxDOT transcript of Jan. 13, 2000
Texas Turnpike Authority meeting, pp 36-39.
By Kate Alexander, AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF, Monday, April 29,
Williamson County remained among the nation's 10
fastest-growing counties last year, according to Census Bureau
estimates released today, but a state population expert maintains
the figures do not reflect recent economic changes.
"Any economic downturn we've experienced in the last couple of
years would not appear in these estimates . . . simply because of
the methodology," said Steve Murdock, a demographer with the State
Data Center at Texas A&M University.
The estimates, based on extrapolations of birth and death
rates and migration figures, tend to lag behind reality by more
than a year, Murdock said. For Williamson County, ranked at No. 5,
that year was one of layoffs and an overall chilling of its
explosive growth, in contrast to recent years when it was a
mainstay in the top 10 list of fastest-growing counties.
According to the estimates, Williamson County increased more
than 11 percent between April 1, 2000, the date of the last
decennial count, and July 1, 2001. Travis County grew 2.6 percent
during the same time period.
Pete Winstead: "...It might be of interest to you to
know I was attending an economic forecast breakfast this morning
put on by Angelos Angelus company, and its no surprise the year
2000, 2001 in central Texas, the Austin area, is going to be 5.5
percent per year in jobs, 32,000 new units of housing created in
our area. Once again Dell Computer is going to add tons of new
people. A great forecast. I guess 950 people at the new convention
center listening to this.
At the end of it though, I got to tell you, guess what the
number one problem is that we have in central Texas that could
kill the golden goose, what could shut down the economic
development of Texas? Its just like in real estate,
transportation. Transportation is the number one problem we have
in continuing the growth we've been having.
The reason I tell you that, we're very proud of the process
and team that we've put together to do 183A, but I've got to tell
you that it is a critical issue to the state of Texas and to
central Texas that we get these roads up and built quickly, and
the reason that 183 is very important, I think it is going to be,
as you know, our first test of exclusive development agreements
and how well they work. We've got a great team. We've some great
coaches to learn how to do this, but we're going to be learning,
as you-all learn how to do this.
I've got to tell you as Chairman of the Turnpike Authority
that we're going to make this work and that we're going to use
this as a template to build lots of other things in this state,
including SH 130, and other things that are out there. I have got
to have your help.
What I am counting on -- and I spent the whole day in Laredo
testifying with the Highway commissioners and others about what is
happening, particularly in the border of Laredo, IH 35 et cetera,
what is hurting this state and we have got to respond to these
problems we're having and I have told I guess Phil that there are
twelve centers there, as we were sitting there, that we're going
to use exclusive development agreements in outsourcing to the
private sector the building and turning over the keys to these
toll projects. We're going to use that model to build lots of
infrastructure much more quickly. We've got to get these roads
done in five to seven years not 17 to 20, and thats kind of my
We're very excited about the project, and I really urge you to
plug into it. We're going to make it work, and with your help it
will be very successful. Thank you very much..."
Roger again: I think whether we reach a consensus on
light rail vs. monorail at this point is a moot point, because it
will be be 2010 before we would get it built in any case, and by
this time Austin's transportation problems will be such by then
that it won't make much difference.
The Austin road/real estate lobby is determined to politically
stack the deck to give us sprawl, no matter what we do, and
whether we have light rail is a minor point compared to this key
We would be far better off if we had sound land use planning
and no light rail than vice versa. But there are too many billions
invested in suburban real estate, and Texas laws are too backward,
and the road lobby is too strong.
I think the local system will have to reach a crisis before we
make the needed changes. No better proof of this fact can be found
than the fact that TxDOT can only afford A THIRD of the roads that
it needs, and its response it to try to conduct business as usual,
by building billions of dollars worth of (Williamson County) toll
roads on borrowed money! Plus TxDOT has now hired a full time
Washington lobbyist. And CAMPO and the local politicians have
gotten a ozone flex plan that is unlikely to work, based on
voluntary shifts in behavior, to avoid the normal federal
sanctions on more road-builing.
The analysis & articles above help drive home the point of
just how corrupt and unrealistic the local transportation planning
process has gotten. It is so bad that ONLY either running out of
money, or a peak in world oil production predicted by many experts
in this decade, is likely to force a change. Clearly, our main
problems are political and not technical, and debating the merits
of light rail avoids this reality.
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