Against the recommendations from the Mobility Committee, the Austin City Council moved forward with Mayor Steve Adler’s ambitious $720 million transportation bond to bring before voters in November. If voters approve the measure, it will mark the most money Austin has ever spent on a transportation measure — not including interest.
The larger measure is one Mayor Adler has been pushing all along, despite the fact that the Mobility Committee approved one just last week that was nearly half the size. That proposal was put forth by Councilmember Ann Kitchen, who remained skeptical of the larger package and ultimately voted against it around 1:30 A.M. today, along with Councilmembers Ora Houston and Delia Garza.
The defining feature of the $720 million package is a pet-project Mayor Adler has been pushing dubbed “Smart Corridors,” which focuses on upgrading some of the main thoroughfares in Austin — Guadalupe, Lamar, Burnet, and Airport, to name a few. Those upgrades include such measures as pull-out queue jumps for busses, sidewalks/crosswalks for pedestrians, protected bicycle paths, designated left-turning lanes, and upgrades to traffic-lights to make them situationally adaptive in real time.
Austinites have consistently suffered some of the worst traffic congestion in the country, and it is fortunate that officials are putting forth a plan that, for once, doesn’t involve rail of some kind. Curiously, while many of the proposals sound helpful, it is unclear how they’ll alleviate the space problem — many of the solutions simply require more space on roadways that are already cramped on either side by buildings.
As such, it is unclear exactly how much Austinites would be getting in return for such a high price tag — which would result in approximately $60 extra per year ($5 per month) for a homeowner with a $250,000 house.
The proposal is highly likely to be included on the ballot in November. The only pending development is the construction of the ballot language itself — which city staff were instructed to draft and will bring back in August, after council’s summer break. Councilmember Don Zimmerman (who just this week sued the city and Mayor Adler for nebulous ballot language) has warned that he will vote against it should the drafted proposition suffer from the same nebulous construction.