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CASE 2013 "Winter" Breakfast
January 25th at Marie Callender's

Mike HeiligensteinCASE was honored to welcome Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, as our guest speaker bright and early on January 25th, 2013. A little known fact, Mike was our first keynote speaker at our CASE Conference 10 years ago! How time flies!

Your CASE leadership thought, as we approach our 10th Summer CASE Conference, how appropriate to have Mike come and give us an update on the CTRMA, what’s changed, what’s new, and how we’re continuing to address mobility solutions in Central Texas. Mike started with an update on the history of the CTRMA, candidly speaking to some early decisions and the obstacles they created, and transitioning into what the real issues for mobility are in Central Texas today. It was mentioned that at this point, with the current funding sources for transportation in Central Texas, locally we are left to “backfill” our infrastructure needs.

Mike Heiligenstein speakingOne of the most interesting points brought up is that we can never actually solve traffic issues by building more capacity. Capacity is only a solution when your population is static. Perhaps if the region were not growing, and growing at an astounding rate, we could use capacity as an answer. Due to the unpopular nature of raising the gas tax, our transportation leaders have determined that the future of reliable transportation that creates new capacity, over time, is by looking to the “User Paid” model. Or, as we know them, toll roads. However, Mr. Heiligenstein spoke further about the current proposed and underway project, a first of its kind in Texas, managed toll lanes.

The managed toll lanes, or Express Lanes, proposed for Mopac -- southbound, from approximately Parmer Lane, and northbound from Slaughter Lane -- both terminate at Lady Bird Lake/downtown Austin. The theory for the Express, or Managed, Lanes, is that you pay higher rates when the demand for a quicker route is higher. Therefore, you will have a choice to pay a premium to drive in less congestion. As was presented, you will enter the gateway area of the highway, before you need to make a decision, where you will see the current, at the moment, pricing. For public transit (and emergency), the lanes will always be free. The CTRMA sees this as another way to incentivize commuters to use public transit, and they encourage a variety of alternative methods of transportation as a comprehensive solution to the high congestion we face at peak drive times in Austin, Texas.

During the question and answer session, a member of the CASE board asked for more details on the removal of cash toll booths on CTRMA roads. Because of the safety, along with the lowering of operational costs, the only form of acceptable payment for usage is with a TXTAG.

For more information on our guest, Mike Heiligenstein, please visit the CTRMA website for his full bio and the main page of the CTRMA for other CTRMA information.

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