Following today's presentation by the 2017 Citizens Bond Advisory Committee, Travis County commissioners will decide Aug. 8 whether to approve a $144 million bond referendum that will address the county's transportation, park and roadway issues. The tally is in addition to a $90,555,309 recommended annual appropriation from certificates of obligation that does not need to be put to the voters in November.

The 15-member court-appointed committee convened in 24 open forum meetings before collaborating with community members in six public outreach meetings held in June. Based on community input, the committee put together a proposal of its top priority projects to address roadway capacity; pedestrian, bicycle, roadway and bridge safety; parks; and drainage issues.

Committee Chairman Ron Wattinger and Vice Chairman John Langmore presented the final list of proposed projects to commissioners today.

Travis County 2017 Bond referedum A map of projects listed in the proposed 2017 bond referendum.[/caption]

The committee viewed the bond package as primarily addressing the needs of Travis County's unincorporated areas that are not within any municipal city limits. The committee also aimed to achieve some level of equity between the four precincts while acknowledging that most of Precinct 2 is within the city limits of Austin and Precinct 4 has been historically underserved with respect to infrastructure investment.

"There is a large investment on the eastern side of the county in respect to transportation projects," Langmore said. "I think it was based on what people of eastern Travis County had to say. We also toured eastern Travis County extensively and saw great needs that exist out there and felt that it was time to make some changes that maybe should have been made a while back, but I feel strongly that investment is justified."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion, whose precinct covers a portion of the east side of the county, echoed a similar sentiment about the need for resources in that portion of the county.

"We support addressing safety concerns that relate to transportation to schools [and] evacuation from communities that were built in the flood plain, with a special emphasis on those routes where people have already been killed," Travillion said. "When you look at the [recommended bond] package across the board, you see those three items lining up in Precincts 1 and 4. We, as a court, have been very supportive in addressing those issues."

The original list of projects was estimated at about $1.1 billion. With community input and safety priority criteria, the committee narrowed the list down to $144 million.

The major projects recommended include $18 million for bicycle safety improvements at eight locations, with southwest Austin sites located at Circle Drive at Thomas Springs as well as Fitzhugh Road.

An estimated $57 million is allocated for parks, including a sports complex in Bee Creek and greenway improvements at Onion Creek and Gilleland Creek.

Pedestrian safety improvements accounted for $7 million of the bond recommendation, with sidewalk improvements at Decker Lake Road, Springdale Road and in the Westminster Glen neighborhood.

Road capacity accounted for $32 million of the recommended package, with improvements in several places around the county including Bullick Hollow Road at FM 2796 and Grand Avenue Parkway.

Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she supported the bond as it was presented Tuesday and was impressed with the criteria committee members set for accomplishing the safety concerns and needs of the county.

"I think it is an extremely well thought out plan and I am over the moon grateful that they broke the mold with this [recommendation]," Eckhardt said. "They broke the mold in spreading the peanut butter evenly for political purposes and instead went after real need."

The $144 million bond is proposed for financing over four years, with a 10 percent allowance built in for project management costs and $4 million included for unanticipated expenses. The bond would also not impact the tax rate.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 25 on the final list of proposed projects.