Austin’s New Transportation Bond

Proposition 1: The next step to addressing Austin’s traffic woes?

Even though the presidential election has dominated recent political headlines, there is plenty more at stake for Austinites than just the presidency when we go to the polls on November 8. One of the matters on the ballot will be Proposition 1, a proposed transportation bond that’s also known as the “mobility bond” (or as Mayor Steve Adler calls it, the “Go Big” bond). If passed, the $720 million bond would fund seven “smart corridor” projects and earmark funding for other significant roads, dubbed “future corridors,” as well.

What is a “smart corridor,” you ask? A press release from the mayor’s office explains: “So what would we be doing to these old state highways that would turn them into Smart Corridors? 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.”

The smart corridors at the front of the bond’s queue, and for which mobility reports have already been completed, include:

  • North Lamar Boulevard
  • Burnet Road
  • Airport Boulevard
  • East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/FM 969
  • South Lamar Boulevard
  • East Riverside Drive
  • Guadalupe Street

An additional “Unspecified South Austin Corridor” is thought to be planned to focus on one these four major South Austin thoroughfares: Pleasant Valley Road, South Congress Avenue, Slaughter Lane or William Cannon Drive. And even more corridors are scheduled to undergo preliminary engineering reports.

It is important to note that the currently proposed funding for both the current corridors, and future corridors is $482 million, which is roughly two-thirds of the total $720 million bond package. The remaining funding would be dedicated to six “regional” mobility projects and local improvements to things like sidewalks, bicycle lanes and urban trails. The Trails and Bicycle Master Plans, in particular, would receive $50 million in combined funding.

Opinions have been widely divided on the bond. Advocates say that it represents a proactive way to deal with some of Austin’s busiest roadways and would include such desirable features as better walkability and provisions for non-car transportation. Opponents say that the plans are too large in scope and not specific enough, will not have the intended positive impact, and may actually cost much more than the bond amount, requiring future bonds to complete the projects.

Not sure how you’ll cast your vote? You can start by visiting the City of Austin’s Corridor Improvement Programs web page to view the completed corridor plans, which were prepared by the Austin Transportation Department, or checking out the 2016 Mobility Bond Voter Information Brochure. And for a tax calculator to see how much you’ll pay if Proposition passes, visit the city’s Bond Financial and Tax Impact page.

Once you’ve had a chance to learn more about what the mobility bond is proposing, you can read any number of news articles written by people on both sides of the issue. Then it’s time to decide where you stand. Whichever side you’re on, Blairfield Realty reminds you to exercise your right to vote on November 8!

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