Will Austin have a transportation bond election this November? That is the question City Council is quickly trying to answer as it comes up against an August deadline for putting a proposal on the ballot.
Last month, Austin Mayor Steve Adler released the details about his own ideas for a $720 million bond package.
Here’s where the mayor wants to spend that money:
- $98.5 million for regional mobility projects, like Loop 360.
- $137 million for local mobility projects, with $120 million dedicated to sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and the Vision Zero Action Plan.
- $484.5 million for corridor improvement projects, aka “smart corridors – this is the bulk of Adler’s proposal and includes comprehensive improvements to roads like North and South Lamar, Airport Boulevard, Guadalupe, Riverside, Burnet, and MLK East/FM 969. More info>>
Are there any other proposals?
Last week, Council Members Greg Casar, Leslie Pool, and Sabino “Pio” Renteria cosponsored a resolution in support of the mayor’s proposal. However, Casar and Pool have already offered amendments to the plan, saying there should be more of an emphasis on bike lanes and sidewalks.
Here’s what’s in the amended plan put forth by Casar and Pool:
- No money for regional mobility projects.
- $220 million for local mobility projects, like sidewalks, bike lanes, trails and Vision Zero.
- $420 million for corridor improvement projects, aka “smart corridors.”
- $80 million for underserved neighborhoods, to build safer routes to school, improve bus stops, and increase pedestrian safety.
Similar to the mayor’s plan, Casar and Pool say that these amendments shift some of the focus away from suburban highway projects (like Loop 360) and towards alternative transportation and safety improvements. More info>>
Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen also released an alternative bond proposal last week, although her’s is the smallest in scope. Kitchen is calling for a $300 million transportation bond, which actually wouldn’t require a property tax increase because of other city debt that has been paid off in recent years. The mayor’s plan would increase property taxes by about $5 a month for the median homeowner.
Here’s what’s in Kitchen’s plan:
- $46.5 million for regional mobility projects, like MoPac and Parmer Lane.
- $91 million for local mobility projects, like sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails.
- $162.5 million for safety and intersection improvements, corridor mobility projects, and transit improvements. More info>>
Is this happening too fast?
That depends on who you ask. Some City Council members have advocated to wait and undergo a more comprehensive bond election in two years. Council Members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair have also raised concerns that all of these bond proposals are headed toward the ballot box too quickly and that more time should have been allotted to hash them out.
Mayor Adler on the other hand, seems ready to act now. In a blog post, he explained that his smart corridors plan is based off of several other plans and studies that already undergone a public engagement process, cost millions to develop, and “… in classic Austin fashion they are sitting on a shelf gathering dust.”
“We’ve done the studies,” Adler wrote. “Now it’s time to take the test, and a passing grade is $720 million.”
City Council doesn’t have much more time to decide. A decision must be made by August 22nd and council is about to go on its regular summer break until August 4th. More info>>