City Council Takes Final Step to Send $720 Million Transportation Bond to Austin Voters
It’s official. Austin voters will decide on a $720 million transportation bond come November 8. Council members took a final vote on the ballot language this afternoon, after nearly two hours of discussion. The final count? Seven council members for, three abstaining, one hard no.
Nearly two-thirds of that $720 million will be spent on implementing (or, in the case of two South Austin streets, planning) corridor projects – lengthy plans to redesign nine of Austin’s major streets. See a comprehensive breakdown of what the bond will pay for here.
Here’s what voters will see on the ballot and decide “for” or “against”:
“The issuance of $720,000,000 transportation and mobility improvement bonds and notes for improvements to Loop 360 corridor, Spicewood Springs Road, Old Bee Caves Road Bridge, Anderson Mill Road, intersection of RM 620 and RM 2222, Parmer Lane, North Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, Airport Boulevard, East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/FM 969, South Lamar Boulevard, East Riverside Drive, Guadalupe Street, Slaughter Lane, William Cannon Drive, Rundberg Lane, East Colony Park Loop Road, South Congress Avenue, Manchaca and South Pleasant Valley Road; sidewalks, Safe Routes to School, urban trails, bikeways, fatality reduction strategies, and the following local mobility substandard streets/capital renewal projects: Falwell Lane, William Cannon Overpass Bridge, FM 1626, Cooper Lane, Ross Road, Circle S Road, Rutledge Spur, Davis Lane, Latta Drive/Brush Country, Johnny Morris Road, and Brodie Lane; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.”
"My issue is about the fact that this plan represents others making decisions that people who were not part of that conversation had no opportunity to make."
While six council members, plus Mayor Steve Adler, supported the bond – four did not. District 1 council member Ora Houston voted against the bod* because of what she said was a lack of inclusivity in the planning process.
“My issue is about the fact that this plan represents others making decisions that people who were not part of that conversation had no opportunity to make,” said Houston, who said she felt bullied into voting for something on which she felt she’d had little say.
District 2 council member Delia Garza echoed Houston’s words, saying she thought the process was too fast.
Transit advocates have also criticized the bond measure, as it includes no money for additions or improvements to public transportation. Some called for adding light rail to the package. Those calls were firmly rebuffed by Mayor Adler.
But enough council members were for it. Those in support emphasized the “bigness” (read more here) of this bond amount and a tendency in Austin to fail to invest in transportation changes and safe commuting.
“I grew up here in Austin and I drove the streets since I was 16 years and there’s not much that has been done to these major corridors,” said District 3 council member Sabino Renteria. “We have just cornered ourselves into a very dangerous corner where it’s going to affect our economy, our business is going to suffer, people are not going to be able to move around. We are going to have more accidents. We’re going to have more deaths out there in the streets because we are not addressing these issues.”
Should the bond pass, the homeowner of a home valued at $250,000 would see a tax increase of $4.67 per month, or roughly $56 per year. City finance staff has said these new burdens would not be felt until at least 2018.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Houston abstained from the vote. Three council members abstained, but Houston was the sole vote against the bond.