In final week of early voting, here is what Austin residents should know about Project Connect

Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a Blue Line light rail train at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a Blue Line light rail train at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)

Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a Blue Line light rail train at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)

Image description
Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a Blue Line light rail train at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
Image description
Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a MetroRail Red Line train at the McKalla station near the future Austin FC stadium. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
Early voting ends Oct. 30, and a week out from Election Day, nearly half of all Travis County registered voters have already cast their ballots—a total of 427,071 votes.

If you are an Austin resident and have not yet headed to the polls, you can expect to see this language once you get near the end of your ballot with an option to vote for or against:

Approving the ad valorem tax rate of $0.5335 per $ 100 valuation in the City of Austin for the current year, a rate that is $0.0875 higher per $100 valuation than the voter-approval tax rate of the City of Austin, for the purpose of providing funds for a citywide traffic-easing rapid transit system known as Project Connect, to address traffic congestion, expand service for essential workers, reduce climate change emissions, decrease traffic fatalities, create jobs, and provide access to schools, health care, jobs and the airport; to include neighborhood supportive affordable housing investments along transit corridors and a fixed rail and bus rapid transit system, including associated road, sidewalk, bike, and street lighting improvements, park and ride hubs, on-demand neighborhood circulator shuttles, and improved access for seniors and persons with disabilities; to be operated by the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, expending its funds to build, operate and maintain the fixed rail and bus rapid transit system; the additional revenue raised by the tax rate is to be dedicated by the City to an independent board to oversee and finance the acquisition, construction, equipping, and operations and maintenance of the rapid transit system by providing funds for loans and grants to develop or expand transportation within the City, and to finance the transit-supportive antidisplacement strategies related to Project Connect. Last year, the ad valorem tax rate in the City of Austin was $0.4431 per $100 valuation.

That is a long, dense block of text that may be hard for voters to parse. In simpler terms, Austin residents will be deciding whether to approve Project Connect, Capital Metro's vision to expand its public transportation with three new rail lines, an underground station, an expanded network of bus routes and more.

The total plan would cost around $7.1 billion—about 45% of which Capital Metro officials said it expects to be paid for by the federal government—and it would be funded through a tax rate increase in the city of Austin of $0.875 per $100 of valuation for a total city tax rate of $0.5335.


More than half of the cost of the project would come from two new light rail lines—one, the Orange Line, running north to south from the North Lamar Boulevard area to South Congress Avenue, and the other, the Blue Line, running from the airport through downtown and up North Lamar, alongside the Orange Line.

If voters approve, the first step for Capital Metro would be securing funding from the Federal Transit Administration and completing the environmental review process. After that, according to the timeline Capital Metro has laid out, construction of both the Orange Line and Blue Line would start in four years and would be completed after nine years.

In a meeting of the Capital Metro board of directors Oct. 26, Dottie Watkins, Capital Metro chief customer officer and chief operating officer, said the agency is in the midst of putting together a procurement plan for buying electric buses over five years—both replacement vehicles for its current fleet and, should Project Connect pass, new buses to run on the lines added.

Community Impact Newspaper has broken down the tax implications of the decision so Austin homeowners can see exactly what their tax bills will look like for the upcoming year with the new—and permanent—addition for Project Connect.


The breakdown includes the tax rates for Travis County and Austin ISD, but as some readers rightly pointed out, not all residents in the city of Austin pay taxes to those two jurisdictions. Here are the fiscal year 2020-21 rates for other entities Austin residents may pay and the tax bills for the median homeowner of a $362,000 home in the city.


  • Hays County: $0.4212 per $100 of valuation ($1,525)

  • Williamson County: $0.458719 per $100 of valuation ($1,660)

  • Eanes ISD: $1.1164 per $100 of valuation ($4,041)

  • Del Valle ISD: $1.257 per $100 of valuation ($4,550)

  • Leander ISD: $1.4184 per $100 of valuation ($5,135)

  • Manor ISD: $1.445 per $100 of valuation ($5,231)

  • Pflugerville ISD: $1.4223 per $100 of valuation ($5,149)

  • Round Rock ISD: $1.2212 per $100 of valuation ($4,416)




Community Impact Newspaper's three editions covering the city of Austin have detailed the plan and its effects on different areas of town. You can read more about the impacts in Northwest Austin, Southwest Austin and Central Austin here.

Editor's Note: A clarification has been added to show that the Project Connect tax increase would be $0.0875 per $100 of valuation, bringing the total city tax rate to $0.5335 per $100.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

Residential appraisal valuations have been sent to Travis County property owners. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis Central Appraisal Districts says hot housing market is reflected in 2021 appraisals

Property owners have until May 17 to file a protest of their home's appraisal.

Photo of the exterior of La Barbecue
La Barbecue opens new space, plus six more new Austin restaurants

Downtown Italian and Greek eateries are among those joining the Austin restaurant scene this spring.

The Austin City Council is set to meet May 6 to go over a 70-item agenda. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Votes on revamped APD cadet academy, possible shift in homeless strategy on tap May 6

Council may look to the possibility of establishing designated campgrounds for the Austin's homeless this spring, with a citywide public camping ban set to go into effect May 11.

Austin City Council will vote on whether to reboot the police department's training academy May 6. (Courtesy Austin Police Department)
Benchmarks for 'reimagined' APD cadet academy on track ahead of City Council commencement vote

Training of the Austin Police Department's 144th cadet class could get underway next month following an overhaul of the academy's instructional process and curriculum.

Ryan Companies will be building 350 homes near the Mueller control tower. (Rendering courtesy Lake Flato Architects)
Coming soon to Austin: Vaquero Taquero adding a downtown location, Komé opening at the airport, Mueller to add 350 homes and more

A new ice cream shop is also opening in East Austin and an apartment project is being built near House Park.

Photo of a gloved hand holding a vaccine vial with the words "vaccine news" superimposed
Austin-area health officials prep for vaccines to open to kids 12 and up

Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Mark Escott said he expects the FDA to authorize Pfizer's vaccine for kids 12 and up within a week.

New penalties for camping and several other activities will be enforced after the May 1 election is certified and Proposition B's homeless ordinances are in effect. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
With Proposition B's passage, Austin City Council looks to solidify homelessness summit goals, may consider designated campgrounds

The city may look to the concept of temporary designated campsites to house individuals experiencing homelessness after a new camping ban enacted through Proposition B goes into effect.

Photo of hands in purple gloves prepared a vaccine vial
As Travis County receives fewer vaccines this week, state asks for 'one more big push' in distribution

The Texas Department of State Health Services is shifting its distribution model for vaccines moving forward.

Waterloo Park will open in August 2021. (Courtesy Waterloo Greenway Conservancy)
Waterloo Park announces August opening date, series of community programs

Live Nation and C3 Presents will announce a series of concerts at the park's 5,000-seat Moody Amphitheater in the coming weeks.

Voters line up at the Carver branch of the Austin Public Library on May 1. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin May 1 election: See the results from all eight propositions

Nearly 60% of city voters supported Proposition B, which will reinstate criminal penalties for camping, solicitation and sitting or lying down in certain public areas.