Central Texas should create a
regional source of money for transportation projects, paying as a
group for everything from new highways to clearing accidents from
roads, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said Monday.
The City of Austin would put
$150 million over the next 10 years into such a resource, but
every jurisdiction in Travis, Williamson and Hays counties should
contribute, too, the mayor said in a speech describing his vision
for transportation through 2010.
"We cannot and should not look
to any one jurisdiction to carry the load," Watson said. "I'm
counting -- I'm counting --on other jurisdictions to come up with
money if we do."
How that money would be
collected and how it would be used are details the mayor wants the
community to begin deciding. Watson said it makes sense to turn to
the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which
includes Austin, Travis County, Cedar Park, Round Rock and
portions of Williamson and Hays counties.
The mayor's plan is an attempt
to speed up road building and other transportation fixes, a
process that is often stuck in gridlock created by questions of
jurisdiction and not enough money. Among other things, the money
could be used on the proposed Texas 130 and improvements to U.S.
290 West into Hays County or on alternatives to
"It is a wonderful idea, but I
think there has got to be some safeguards on how it occurs," said
Sheila Holbrook-White, executive director of Texas Citizen Action,
a consumer group.
Capital Metro also ought to use
its 1-cent sales tax to pay for more things than bus service or
light rail, the mayor said. The agency already is planning to
spend money on high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, but Watson is pushing
for it to do even more with roads.
Capital Metro board members
have said they'd consider such proposals.
If the City Council agrees to
Watson's proposal, the $150 million could be on the November
ballot as a bond package that will be linked with Capital Metro's
light-rail referendum, or the money could be paid partly in cash
and partly in bonds.
Watson said most of the $150
million would be used as matching dollars for state or federal
money for projects, especially new or expanded roads. The bond
money would be committed as a local match to the Texas
Transportation Commission in 2001, when regional leaders ask for
state money for projects to be built in 2005. Each year, the
region would commit more local money to its state
Some of the $150 million also
would go toward buying the land needed to build roads or rail.
Watson did not specify dollar amounts for either
The city, Capital Metro, the
planning group and other local governments have committed about
$35 million in local matching dollars over the last two years to
help pay for projects they are requesting from the state. Since
the state typically looks more favorably on projects that come
with local dollars, the matching money helps generate more overall
money to spend on transportation.
Those projects are included in
a 25-year transportation plan that includes items for the entire
region. Watson's regional money proposal would cover spending on
projects in that 2025 plan, which was adopted Monday night by the
"If we do this right, it isn't
just $15 million a year," he said.
The city already has voter
approval to issue $152 million in bonds for transportation
projects through 2005, out of the 1998 bond election.
If new bonds are issued, the
tax rate would remain within the 1 cent approved in 1998, so it
would not create a tax increase, Watson said. The new bonds would
extend the life of that cent, which was to end by
Reaction to the mayor's speech
included questions on why he didn't mention any improvements for
Interstate 35 -- there wasn't time, Watson said afterward -- and
encouragement about his challenge for the region to stop
politicking about transportation. The mayor spoke to community and
business leaders who paid to attend a Greater Austin Chamber of
Watson's 70-minute speech
touched on every aspect of transportation from sidewalks to
traffic technology, highways and all forms of rail, and included
his contention that light rail is better than the "extreme roadway
scheme that some are suggesting."
That plan, voiced by the
Reclaim Our Allocated Dollars group that is opposing Capital
Metro's light-rail plans, calls for building an outer loop around
Austin, building a major east-west road and improving other roads
in the next 10 years, and then considering light rail.
Gerald Daugherty, founder of
ROAD, questioned the mayor after his speech on why light rail is
worthwhile if it only takes 2 percent of the cars off the road, as
some studies have concluded. Watson countered by pointing out the
proposed Texas 130 toll road is projected to take only 5 percent
of traffic off I-35 -- but the city still needs both.
"This is a diverse community.
We must create a diversity of options for people," Watson
The mayor also suggested the
city explore ways to use e-commerce know-how to let residents do
governmental business over the Internet. That way, he said, they
don't have to drive into downtown.
"By the way, we're going to
name that e-government after me. We'll call it 'e-go,' " Watson
I've tried without success to get local groups to add their events to this calendar (Bike Texas, the Yellow Bike Project, City's Bicycle Program, Bike Austin, etc.)
If you'd like to help edit the calendar, or at least add your group's events to it, then please let me know!
Another site by Michael Bluejay...
Saving Electricity. Find out how much juice your stuff uses, and how to save money and energy. As seen in Newsweek.