Austin will send $460 million transportation bond to voters in November

Bikers ride up Shoal Creek Boulevard in February. A bond proposal from Austin would fund additional bike lanes, sidewalk reconstruction, capital improvements and more. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bikers ride up Shoal Creek Boulevard in February. A bond proposal from Austin would fund additional bike lanes, sidewalk reconstruction, capital improvements and more. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Bikers ride up Shoal Creek Boulevard in February. A bond proposal from Austin would fund additional bike lanes, sidewalk reconstruction, capital improvements and more. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin voters will decide in November whether they want to approve a bond measure that would allow the city to borrow money in order to make improvements to sidewalks, trails, bikeways and streets that have fallen into disrepair.

The bond would include $102 million in funding to be used for capital improvements to the Longhorn Dam Bridge crossing Lady Bird Lake, the South Pleasant Valley Road corridor, Barton Springs Road and a project to revitalize South Congress Avenue.

In December, the city revealed a "wishbone" design for the Longhorn Dam Bridge, with three prongs spanning the water and connecting to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. When those designs were released, funding for the construction of that bridge had yet to be identified.

According to Greg Canally, deputy chief financial officer for the city, the bond proposal would add about $77-$80 per year in property tax payments for the median homeowner in the city.

District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen said she was uncomfortable with that high number and brought an amendment to her City Council peers Aug. 13 that would have knocked the bond down to $300 million, saving the median taxpayer about $29 per year.


"I don't like being in this position because I care about active transportation, sidewalks, trails and bikes. This just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel right at all," Kitchen said.

After a series of failed amendments, Kitchen ultimately voted for the proposition to send the decision to voters. The vote passed 9-1, with District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan voting against and District 10 Council Member Alison Alter abstaining.

District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said the bond will allow the city to follow through on its promises and make some much-needed improvements in her district, where she said sidewalks have cratered and trails have collapsed.

"Without this proposal, we'll fall short of the goals we've set for ourselves as a city," Harper-Madison said.

Earlier on Aug. 13, City Council passed its fiscal year 2020-21 budget, cutting significant funds from the Austin Police Department, and officially sent Project Connect to the voters—a plan that would build $7.1 billion in transportation infrastructure, including light rail lines and an underground train station—that would $344 to the median Austin taxpayer's bill.


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