What Would $720 Million for Transportation Buy?

City Council mulls the "Go Big" bond in preparation for the November ballot

(Page 2 of 9)

Austin's Corridor Mobility Plans

Two-thirds of the entire bond package – some $477.5 million in all – goes into developing out the seven transit corridors you see on this page. Here's a look at what you're getting for that money.

Why these corridors?

This original list of corridors that are to be developed into smart corridors came from the 2010 transportation bond package (see "Rubber Meets the Road," Oct. 22, 2010), which funded a number of preliminary engineering studies – as this current one will – under the city of Austin Corridor Mobility Development Program. The Austin Transportation Department developed four plans, all completed between Dec. 2013 and Feb. 2014, along with two more – South Lamar and Guadalupe – that were added into the mix later in 2012. But it's worth noting that these are just a few of many projects that got seed funding in that 2010 package. And the only mention of North Lamar/Burnet in the 2010 bond is $10M funding for sidewalks for ADA compliance. Riverside, Airport, and MLK/969 are indeed funded for study, but so are Manchaca and Rundberg.

A caveat on costs:

Regarding all of the cost estimates here, a recent memo to Council from Assistant City Manager Robert Goode clarified that the Corridor Reports provided estimates for construction costs only, totaling some $820 million, and not including "project management and delivery, project contingency, bond issuance fees and inflation." Staff estimates the full cost to be close to double that, for a grand total of about $1.5 billion – not including the as-yet unspecified South Austin corridor. So, while the bond as tentatively structured would fully fund the listed cost estimates for the Burnet, North Lamar, Airport, and South Lamar plans, it would actually only fund about half of the total costs. The city would have to look as well to alternative financing from partner entities (such as Travis County, TxDOT, Capital Metro), or from tax money, including perhaps tax increment financing districts.

What makes these "smart" corridors?

"So what would we be doing to these old state highways that would turn them into Smart Corridors?" asks a recent press release from the mayor's office. "Everybody gets something, so the roads would better for everyone: pullouts and queue jumps for rapid transit, protected paths for bicycles, sidewalks and safe crosswalks for pedestrians, turn lanes, medians, and access management for vehicles, and smart signals that we can time remotely in response to weather, special events, collisions, etc." Each of the corridor plans is chock-full of such features; see them all at www.austintexas.gov/department/corridor-studies.

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