In recent years, Austinites voted for a $720 million transportation bond through 2016's Proposition 1, $160 million from 2018's Proposition G and $460 million from 2020's Proposition B. While hundreds of millions have been dedicated or used up already, the majority of the $1.34 billion in combined funding remains available for projects large and small across town.Representatives with multiple city departments working on bond-backed initiatives briefed the Austin Bond Oversight Commission on Feb. 15 on where construction and spending stand several years into the lifetimes of all three voter-approved packages.
Most progress to date has been achieved from the 2016 bond—which passed with an eight-year deadline through its “contract with the voters.” Around half of 2018 bond funds is spent or allocated already ahead of its similar eight-year deadline, while around 10% of the 2020 bond funds have been committed so far. That measure passed with a six-year expectation for the end of project construction.
While timelines have been adjusted annually, staff said current spending plans project the funding pool from each bond will approach $0 remaining within the city-established timelines.2016 bond progress
Austin's 2016 bond funds were dedicated to three specific buckets: corridor projects, regional mobility and local mobility. Eric Bailey, assistant director over capital project delivery at the Austin Public Works Department, said the majority of the city's spending so far has been used on the local and regional initiatives, while most remaining funds will back upcoming construction on the city's major corridors.
Nine highlighted corridors cover almost 50 miles of roadway from the city's south to north sides.
Susan Daniels, a representative with the Austin Corridor Program Office, said construction is ongoing on seven of those stretches, including improvements along Airport Boulevard between North Lamar Boulevard and 55th Street as well as on Burnet Road from Koenig Lane to White Horse Trail.
Looking ahead, Daniels said drainage improvements on Burnet as well as other work on William Cannon Drive between Running Water Drive and McKinney Falls Parkway are next up.
“These are two very substantial projects that will move our program forward. They have already been bid; council has awarded those contracts; and we’re in the final negotiation stage right now on those two. And those will be breaking ground in the next three months,” she said.
Additionally, 10 additional projects are reaching the final stages of permitting. Daniels said those represent some of the larger investments planned to take up the “tail end” of the bond program.
2018 bond progress
Funds from the 2018 bond are being used to support a wider variety of projects, ranging from infrastructure improvements and additions to urban trails and pedestrian-oriented features.
Bailey said many such projects are now reaching the end of their design periods and moving into construction. With that progress, he said that spending is expected to ramp up over the next one to two years after funds have so far not been spent “quite as quickly as we anticipated.”
Despite those adjustments, he said the bond's spending plan has been realigned to match the eight-year contract with the voters.
One notable project Austinites can look forward to is a long-anticipated bridge replacement over the Colorado River on the city's west side. Final designs for the new Rebud Trail Bridge are due next June with construction expected to proceed in early 2025.
Traffic plans for that project are not yet finalized, but Bailey said the crossing will remain open in some form through the construction process.
2020 bond progress
The most recent bond package has seen the least progress so far and also leaves the door open for more public input as projects are added to the spending plan.
With less than one-tenth of the 2020 bond dollars used or committed so far, Bailey said he expects spending to ramp up later this year as projects make it through the final planning and design stages. Bond projects will include major capital improvements as well as urban trails, bikeways, school access routes and items linked to the city's Vision Zero program.
Anna Martin, an Austin Transportation Department assistant director, said residents can also weigh in on bond spending through the ATX Walk Bike Roll initiative. The public feedback period for that planning effort remains open through March 20, and she said feedback will likely help shape the department's next steps.
In response to a commission question, Bailey also said a portion of the bond funds linked to ATX Walk Bike Roll will be used specifically to enhance sidewalks, of which 30% to 35% are not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the sidewalks, and that means that we have to prioritize where we can get the most impact for the money that we spend,” he said.
Staff also noted the most recent bond will be spent with a focus on safety improvements with several times the allocation in that area than past programs received. Proactive safety spending will be a focus in addition to areas already known to be potentially dangerous, they said.