State Highway 130

Extraterritorial pains

When it comes to the bright future around State Highway 130, it's the city of Austin's assessment that the new tollway will be more albatross than golden goose.

That's because the vast majority of the roadway's path, good or bad, lies in Austin's extraterritorial jurisdiction. In some cases – like when the swath of land includes a Samsung, Dell, or Applied Materials – that's good news for the city and its taxpayers. New land that includes businesses – and not simply rooftops – brings both new property value and new taxpayers into the city and defrays the cost of new city-services.

What the city found with its own assessment of SH 130, however, is that the 174 square miles along and near the tollway corridor in Austin's extraterritorial jurisdiction have limited curb-appeal for the city. Half of the land is either developed or unable to be developed because of slopes or environmental features. Of the balance, some of the land is good – such as near larger employers, adjacent to potential rapid-transit corridors, or close to the airport – and some is bad – such as impossible to serve with utilities, low growth, or plagued by flooding.

City Manager Toby Futrell told an SH 130 corridor forum convened by soon-to-be state Sen. Kirk Watson on Monday that the city estimates it would cost $2.4 billion to bring all the available land into the city limits and to provide that land with city services, as required under state law in populated areas. Even if that area were pared down to the bare-minimum 42 square miles along the corridor – served by the bare minimum of services – it would cost the city $570 million to provide water/wastewater, drainage, and roads.

Even if the city could skim the benefits of positive mixed-use development in the corridor – charging the current tax rate – it would only amount to $460 million over 30 years, according to city estimates. The financial benefits of annexation would be nil.

"That [tax money] doesn't even come close to paying for the basic infrastructure in this area," Futrell told the group, noting that some form of permanent, limited-purpose annexation might be a solution, if the Legislature were to pursue such authority for cities.

Austin wants annexation along SH 130 that will be orderly, dense, and mixed-use, with an emphasis on infrastructure planning to address the long-term drainage problems in the region, Futrell said. Along with additional development and annexation tools for cities and counties along the corridor, Watson's forum likely will consider incentive-based measures such as a less costly desired development zone to encourage some growth along the corridor.

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State Highway 130, city of Austin, extraterritorial jurisdiction, Samsung, Dell, Applied Materials, Toby Futrell, Kirk Watson, water / wastewater, drainage, and roads, incentive-based measures

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