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AM Update: Armstrong Bombshell, Charter School Hearing, Cedar Park on Salamanders

goat karma / Erik Reyna, KUT News / City of Austin by Mark Sanders

A high of 93 under partly cloudy skies is forecast for Austin today but it will feel more like 98 degrees with the humidity. Here are your top morning stories.

Lance Armstrong To Be Stripped of Titles?

Austin cycling legend Lance Armstrong is about to have his Tour de France victories “obliterated” from the record books, World Anti-Doping Agency boss John Fahey tells the BBC. As we posted last night, Armstrong said he was giving up his court battle with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) over allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs since 1996.

Shortly thereafter, the USADA chief said that means Armstrong will be stripped of his titles. Armstrong says USADA doesn’t have the authority to do that, but NPR’s Mike Pesca reports this morning that it does. "Greg LeMond is [now] the only American" to have officially won the world's most prestigious bicycle race, Pesca told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

If he loses his titles, it would be a long fall for the Austin resident. This morning, our political reporting partners the Texas Tribune remind us Armstrong was a onetime rumored gubernatorial candidate, supported a statewide smoking ban in Texas, and was pivotal in the creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Charter Schools in the Capitol Spotlight

The controversial issue of school vouchers will be front and center in the State Capitol today as Senate lawmakers hear invited testimony on expanding charter schools. Charter school advocates will likely call for raising the state’s limit on the number of charter school licenses, which is currently set at 215. The Senate Education committee starts at 9 a.m. and you can stream it online.

Texas State Planning $10 Million Water-Research Center

Major research into the drought will be conducted at a $10 million water-research center being announced today at Texas State University, according to a press release. The center is getting launched with a $1 million endowment from the Meadows Foundation, and Texas State still has to raise millions more before the center can be established.

"I don't know of any other university in the world that has a major spring in the middle of campus," Andrew Sansom, the center's director, told the AustinAmerican-Statesman. "It's a source of inspiration for our students and a huge research laboratory and educational opportunity."

Ribbon Cutting For Bike Lockers

The city’s public transit agency, Capital Metro, will host a grand opening of its first MetroBike shelter at 9:15 this morning, even though the lockers at the Kramer MetroRail Station station have been open since August 6. Basically, you pay $30 per year to lock your bike at the station so you can take the train into the city.

Separately, KUT’s Betinna Meier reports this morning on progress the city is making to install public bike rental kiosks around downtown. As soon as spring, you may be able to rent a bike off the street, ride it across downtown, and leave it at a separate location.

“One of the changes will be, you will have a lot of novice cyclists on big clunky bikes riding around downtown not knowing what they are doing,” the Austin Cycling Association’s Preston Tyree told us. “The people who are driving cars, they are going to have to get used to that.”

Cedar Park Votes Against Salamanders

The Cedar Park City Council passed a resolution unanimously last night opposing the addition of three salamanders in Williamson County to the endangered species list. The salamanders are among four in Central Texas that moved closer to being classified as endangered following a recommendation this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As we reported Tuesday, the classification would protect about 6,000 acres in Travis, Williamson and Bell Counties as “critical habitat” for the small amphibians.   

Some Overnight Closures on Southbound I-35

Starting this weekend, you should expect some lane closures on southbound I-35 around Stassney Lane. Last month, a truck hauling an oversized load ran into the underside of the bridge, damaging it.

Though the Texas Department of Transportation says the crash didn’t make the bridge unsafe, it needs to be repaired – and that’s expected to take more than two weeks.

Starting this Sunday, crews will shut down southbound I-35 lanes around Stassney between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Repairs will cost about $85,000.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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