Buda City Council orders rail station study

After securing preliminary funding agreements in three cities, the Lone Star Rail District is turning its attention to Buda.

On May 20, Buda City Council did not vote on the item but signaled support for the rail system's efforts and will continue pursuing the possibility of a rail station in the city.

LSRD, an independent public agency charged with creating 120 miles of passenger rail from Georgetown to San Antonio, will continue discussions with Buda officials. The council also directed staff to begin an economic impact study of the site proposed for a rail station and the surrounding 1/4-mile zone, where a percentage of newly generated property and sales taxes will be captured to fund the rail system.

The economic impact study will cost as much as $15,000 and will come from city coffers, City Planner Chance Sparks said.

"I don't want to be in the way of this thing," Councilman George Haehn said. "I would support it. The concern is that it's going to cost us $15,000, but at least we have a seat at the table."

To join the district, as San Marcos and Austin have done, the city must approve a funding agreement that would involve sharing property and sales tax growth in the specially created transportation infrastructure zone as well as "in-kind" contributions that would come out of Buda's general fund each year.

San Marcos and Austin have approved such agreements, but San Marcos is still determining what percentage of new tax revenue it will share with the district.

Kyle, meanwhile, has approved a deal in principle without establishing the funding mechanism needed to sit at the district's board meetings. The board may ultimately decide to grant Kyle a seat anyway, an attorney for the district has said.

When LSRD first drew up station sites, the proposed Kyle station was seen as a shared Kyle/Buda location because the land was outside Kyle's city limits. The land was later annexed by the city of Kyle, whose population then eclipsed the benchmark to warrant consideration for a rail station.

But Buda's population is booming, too. Projections indicate that the city's population could be between 39,000 and 80,000 by 2040. The city contains about 11,000 people currently and has grown 39 percent since the 2010 census, according to the city.

A downtown station site near the intersection of Houston and Railroad streets was presented at the meeting. The proposed platform would be behind City Hall, and a parking area would be created where the city's annex building currently lies.

While details are still being worked out, many council members voiced their desire not to miss out on the opportunity to show solidarity with the rail system.

"I think a vote of support or at least some kind of indication that we support this rail system will go a long way in bolstering the entire region," Councilwoman Angela Kennedy said. "I don't want to see a newspaper article say, 'Buda City Council decides to step back and not support Lone Star Rail.'"



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