Local group sues to stop toll road construction

News Austin American-Statesman December 05, 2005
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A local group is suing to stop toll road construction, claiming that state transportation officials have ignored their responsibility to conduct an environmental impact statement.

Crews recently started work on the first leg of a toll road system that could run 47 miles along U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 in northern San Antonio, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The lawsuit is an effort to stop work on the highway that could run, in part, over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, the newspaper reported.

“A project of this magnitude, the start of a billion-dollar toll road system largely built over the single source of water for this region, clearly calls for an environmental impact statement,” sail Bill Barker, a transportation engineer working with Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas.

Aquifer Guardians filed the lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation in federal court in San Antonio on Dec. 2.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the state did perform an environmental assessment of the project in 1984 and re-evaluated that study in 2000 and 2004.

However, according to Barker, an environmental assessment is a lesser analysis than an environmental impact statement.

State transportation officials had not seen the suit and could not comment on it, said Gaby Garcia, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.

“Generally speaking, the need for toll roads is pretty evident across the state,” Garcia said.

The Austin-based People for Efficient Transportation joined Aquifer Guardians in the suite, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

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