Austin City Council driving ahead with $720 million transportation bond in 2016

Austin City Council voted June 24 to move ahead on a $720 million mobility bond in 2016. Most of the funding would go toward implementing corridor plans, such as on North Lamar Boulevard.

Austin City Council voted June 24 to move ahead on a $720 million mobility bond in 2016. Most of the funding would go toward implementing corridor plans, such as on North Lamar Boulevard.

After nearly four hours of debate, Austin City Council voted just before 2 a.m. on June 24 to support a $720 million transportation bond referendum likely to go before voters Nov. 8.

The 8-3 vote—with council members Ora Houston, Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen voting no—moves forward on pursuing a $720 million bond in 2016. Council will still need to set the ballot language and approve placing it on the Nov. 8 ballot at an early August meeting.

Mayor Steve Adler said the dollar amount supports what he has heard from community members and leaders to “go big.” He stressed that the bond will not fix everything.

“If we do this right at the same time we’re doing MoPac and [US] 183 and I-35, we can actually change the trajectory of the city, but it’s going to take stepping up and doing that,” he said.

Garza and Kitchen expressed disappointment with the process.

“I don’t think it has been transparent,” Garza said. “I haven’t heard from constituents in my district. In fact I’ve heard they won’t support $720 million.”

Kitchen, who attempted to make her own motion to provide funding more equitably throughout the city, said she could not support the final motion.

“I’m very disappointed my colleagues didn’t hear what I was trying to say," she said. "I can’t support this. My constituents asked me to try to make some changes, and I wasn’t successful."

Austin mobility bond The approved $720 million transportation bond would include funding for both regional and local projects as well implementing corridor plans.[/caption]

$720 million bond package


To pay for the $720 million bond package, the city would issue $250 million in general obligation bonds under the city’s existing bond capacity and issue another $470 million by raising the debt tax rate by about 2.25 cents. This would leave $250 million of bond capacity for future needs, such as parks, libraries and other transportation projects.

The increased tax rate would be phased in over multiple years, and the increase would equate to almost a $5 per month increase for a median household, Mayor Steve Adler said.

“As I go around and talk to people all over city of all economic levels, people want the city to do something and recognize it comes with some investment,” Adler said.

The cornerstone of the $720 million bond package would be $482 million for the mayor’s smart corridors to implement existing corridor plans on North and South Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, Airport Boulevard, East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, East Riverside Drive and Guadalupe Street.

An amendment by Adler attempts to provide more funding for South Austin by adding a corridor from South Austin, such as Slaughter Lane, Brodie Lane, Manchaca Road, FM 1626, William Cannon Drive and South Congress Avenue.

However, Kitchen said that language would not allow the city to find the greatest need to fund.

“It limits the four districts in South Austin to one more, and it doesn’t base it on need,” she said.

Regional mobility projects “to address congestion and enhance safety” would receive $101 million. This money could go toward Loop 360, Spicewood Springs Road, Oak Hill Parkway, Anderson Mill Road, Parmer Lane, and the intersection of RM 2222 and RM 620.

About $30 million would go toward the Urban Trails Master Plan, $20 million for the Bicycle Master Plan, $15 million for implementing the Vision Zero Master Plan that aims to achieve zero traffic deaths and $17 million for improving substandard streets.

Adler’s motion also set aside about $55 million for the Sidewalk Master Plan, and council also voted 7-2, with Garza and District 1 Council Member Ora Houston abstaining, on an amendment to split that amount between the sidewalk plan and the city’s Safe Routes to School program. Each district would receive an equal amount of about $2.75 million.

District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo brought forth the amendment because she said the sidewalk plan uses proximity to transit as its top criteria for determining where sidewalks would go. She said in her district, most of the area west of Loop 360 would not be considered a priority because there is no transit.

“I’m really focused on the safety of our children as they travel to and from school,” she said.


MOST RECENT

Skandanavia Contemporary Interiors to move to South Lamar Blvd.

Skandinavia Contemporary Interiors, a furniture store previously located on Anderson Lane, is preparing to …

Renderings show plans for a transit station as part of Capital Metro's Project Connect. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
Changes to Project Connect plan add $60 million to local cost estimate

Capital Metro Board Chair Wade Cooper called the upcoming June 10 meeting to finalize the technical aspects of the plan "one of the most consequential votes this board has taken in its history."

A photo of two women walking on a trail with a quote from the story
Traditional summer outings may look different in Southwest Austin under COVID-19 guidelines to promote health, safety

Frome trails and parks to camps and water parks, here is what to expect from summer activities and destinations this season.

texas-reopening
LIST: What is open, closed in Texas and how businesses can operate

Texas openings are staggered with different opening dates and operating limits.

New Braunfels is the third-fastest-growing city in the U.S. from 2010-19, according to the latest census numbers. (Community Impact staff)
These 5 Central Texas cities are among the fastest-growing in the U.S.

Four of the five cities represent notable growth in Williamson County.

Lost Creek Limited District will begin charging a fee to enter at its entrance to the Barton Creek greenbelt. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lost Creek board explains decision to charge fee for access to its entrance at Barton Creek greenbelt

Following a May 13 meeting during which Lost Creek Limited District officials voted unanimously to begin charging nonresidents to access the greenbelt from the Barton Creek low water crossing entrance point, board members have put out information further explaining their decision.

On a nearly empty South Congress Avenue, a resident plays guitar March 25. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Unemployment rate in Travis County shoots to 12.4% in April; Austin metro jumps to 12.2%

The local unemployment rate remains below the statewide and national rates.

All patients, residents and staff at Texas' 23 state hospitals and supported living centers are to be tested for coronavirus. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas to test all state hospitals, supported living centers for COVID-19

All patients, residents and staff at Texas' 23 state hospitals and supported living centers will be tested for coronavirus regardless of symptoms or exposure.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra is encouraging testing for residents. (Joe Warner/Community Impact Newspaper)
MAY 23 ROUNDUP: Top stories from this week in Central Texas

Read the most popular stories from the past week of Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of Central Texas.

With social distancing measures still in place, celebrate Memorial Day weekend from the comfort of your home with these takeout family packs. (Courtesy Hopdoddy Burger Bar)
MAY 25 ROUNDUP: Business updates from Central Texas

Read Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of Central Texas business news here.

The H-E-B located at 600 W. William Cannon Drive, Austin, will close in June. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
South Austin H-E-B at William Cannon and First Street set to close in June

The H-E-B located at 600 W. William Cannon Drive, Austin, will close in June.

Mercer Street is home to the Dripping Springs business sector. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs forms committee to evaluate relief options for businesses impacted by COVID-19

The committee will create a new disaster-relief program for Dripping Springs businesses.