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City council asks feds for transportation dollars

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved a list of priority projects that could be funded through the federal transportation funding act (or SAFETEA-LU) this year.


Every five years, the U.S. Congress funds a certain number of transportation projects. The Council’s list will be used by Austin-area congressmen, who can choose which projects, if any, to champion.  If all the projects were approved, the federal government would send the city $100 million in funding, although that’s unlikely to happen.


The list of proposed projects includes: The Lady Bird Lake boardwalk, the Waller Creek trail, a MoPac bicycle bridge, Burnet Road improvements, vehicle detection stations, the East Sixth Street roadway project, the Howard Lane extension, the Lakeline Boulevard extension of the Cap Metro rail line, the Shoal Creek bikeway extension and the Guadalupe Street reconstruction.


Council member Laura Morrison thanked city staff for a list of priorities that included all modes of transportation.


Of all these projects, the City Council seemed most interested in the “vehicle detection stations,” a kind of technology that would allow real-time traffic flow information to be beamed to Austinites’ cell phones and computers. Staff recommended installing a device that tracks toll-tags, but Council Member Lee Leffingwell suggested that perhaps tracking cell phones would provide better data. “Some cities are tracking cell phones,” he said. “There’s a higher saturation of cell phones then toll-tags.”


Leffingwell offered a friendly amendment to exclude the vehicle detection stations, but after a discussion, it seemed likely that the toll-tag technology would work and, if not, the city could decline to move ahead later. Leffingwell withdrew the amendment, and the Council voted unanimously to approve the project list.


City Council also got a briefing on the proposed legislation allowing for a Carma development district in Southeastern Travis County, but took no action. The legislation creates a new type district similar to a MUD; it would give the developers more control over the infrastructure there than the city. The City Council hasn’t voted on whether to support the legislation or not.


City Council Member Laura Morrison asked, “Can the legislation pass over city opposition?” And Government Relations Officer John Hrncir said that it would be more difficult, but “it has happened.”

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