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Even though the Austin Police Department says it needs more operators in their 911 dispatch center, the Austin City Council is moving forward with a plan to spend millions of dollars on something apparently more important to them – bike-lane bridges — while everyone that pays gasoline taxes in the state is helping foot the bill.

It seems there’s something downright moronic that the Austin City Council does or proposes every week, but this one ranks up there with some of their all-time dumb ideas like banning plastic and paper bags, paying city employees to ride their boondoggle Metrorail train and bus system, and investing in a “bike-share” program downtown.

Instead of spending tax money on something that benefits all taxpayers, such as much-needed additional 911 operators to reduce hold times during emergencies, the city council apparently thinks it’s more important bikers have a way to get from the greenbelt in southwest Austin to Zilker Park without riding along the shoulder of Mopac Blvd.

This new plan to build bridges specifically for bike lanes and pedestrian traffic is going to cost taxpayers more than $10 million. That’s $7.5 million per mile!

Of course, the City Council and TxDOT bureaucrats are claiming this is actually going to decrease traffic congestion along Mopac by getting bikes off the road – sort of like Metrorail was supposed to get all those drivers off the road. That’s certainly reduced everyone’s morning commutes in Austin, hasn’t it?

Naturally, TxDOT passed on the much more fiscally prudent option of simply restriping the Southbound side of Mopac to add a third lane for less than $200,000 so bikers could continue to use the shoulder. Keep that in mind on your drive home.

Now, they’re kicking in $6 million of funds from the state gas tax towards the cost of this project – funds that should have otherwise gone towards highway projects.

That’s right. Taxes that Texans are paying across the state are going to pay for bike lanes that only a select few in Austin will ever use – and they don’t even pay the gas tax that’s helping to pay for their new bridges! Keep that in mind next time big-spenders like State Rep. Vicki Truitt try to tell us we need to hike the gasoline taxes to increase revenue and spending.

This is certainly emblematic of the serious misalignment of priorities within Austin City Hall, but it’s also indicative of the wasteful spending we continue to see as a result of diversions that plague our state budget. As taxpayers, we have to stand up and demand better, or else we will continue to get stuck with the bill for special interest projects like bike-lane bridges over real necessities like 911 operators and highway construction.

(Image courtesy of RoadTrafficSigns.com.)