CAMPO derails Lone Star Rail plan

The Lone Star Rail project officially hit the end of the line late last month as the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted 18-0 to remove the project from its 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.

As a part of the organization’s community outreach efforts, CAMPO staff gathered various public comments on the suggested amendments to the CAMPO 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. One suggested the removal of the LSR project, which was a proposed plan to bring light rail services to cities along the Interstate 35 corridor, including Kyle and Buda.

Many comments, which were posted on the CAMPO website, centered on citizens’ disappointment at the extinction of the project and the desire that board members to keep the Environmental Impact Study in the Regional Transportation Plan to allow future rail plans a chance at survival.

Hays County resident Rachel Clampffer expressed in an email the need for CAMPO to keep the LSR project.

Hays County resident Mariano Camarillo also expressed dissatisfaction with the project’s removal.

“The current traffic congestion, projected population growth in region and anticipated increase in commercial traffic warrants our transportation planning organizations to look at every alternative available…including passenger rail.”

Texas State Representative and Hays County resident Paul Workman supported CAMPO’s decision.

“The Lone Star Rail Project is flawed and should be removed from the CAMPO long-range 2040 Plan. An example of the boondoggle that has been the Lone Star Rail Project is the exorbitant expenditures related to the Lone Star Rail project for an unworkable plan,” Workmen’s email said.

But according to documentation from CAMPO staff and the Urban Transportation Commission (UTC), the CAMPO board was advised by multiple sources to keep the Lone Star Rail Project in the plan.

“The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and CAMPO staff recommend that the Transportation Policy Board approve the amendments to the CAMPO 2040 RTP and FY 2017-2020 TIP. The TAC also recommended keeping Lone Star Rail in the 2040 RTP until such time a replacement project could be identified.”

The UTC released a statement in September regarding its recommendations on the inclusion of the LSR project in the CAMPO 2040 RTP.

“The Urban Transportation Commission opposes removing Lone Star Rail from the CAMPO 2040 Regional Transportation Plan and supports continued funding of Lone Star Rail.”

The UTC also expressed the need for the completion of the environmental study for the future of commuter rail in the area.

“The Urban Transportation Commission supports the completion of the Environmental Impact Study begun by Lone Star Rail to consider all options for the routing of the passenger rail line even if Lone Star Rail ceases to be the lead agency to bring commuter rail service to the Central Texas region.”

Buda Mayor Todd Ruge expressed his disappointment at the projects demise.

“On behalf of the rest of the council, I can say that we are disappointed with CAMPO’s decision to terminate the Lone Star Rail project,” Ruge said.

Ruge also said that he hopes the biggest municipalities in the region, Austin and San Antonio, will get together to try to create a workable solution to the need for a commuter rail in Central Texas.

Ruge said he would be “open” to having Buda host a “think tank” session where residents of Hays County could attend and share their ideas about possible solutions to the commuter rail problem.

No alternative plans for a commuter rail have been released at this point.

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