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Transportation Department presents first draft of 2010 bond package

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

Faster buses and boardwalk trails may be in Austin’s future if a proposed transportation bond package made public Monday is able to snake its way through committees, task forces, and City Council this summer and win voter approval in November.


Austin Transportation Department Director Rob Spillar and Assistant Director Gordon Derr presented the initial draft of the proposed transportation bond package to the bond task force yesterday. After months of staff work and citizen input, the preliminary $85 million package includes both short-term congestion-relief projects – including those faster buses, and numerous bike, pedestrian, and trail proposals, the boardwalk, and investments for long-term regional mobility.


Though the meeting was the first time the public was seeing the recommended package, Spillar said that he had presented it to Council members on Friday.


The package, which totals $84.845 million, addresses all 45 of the so-called “A group” mobility gaps identified by citizens and public agencies since October through forums, surveys, and petitions. Though not all 45 of the gaps would be funded by 2010 bond money, the Transportation Department identified alternative funding for those projects not eligible for bond funds in its report.


Spillar and Derr walked the task force through those 45 projects one by one, in order of priority, taking questions and advising members that their job will be to take the initial report and use it to guide their recommendations to the Council Comprehensive Plan and Transportation Committee on July 26.


The projects listed in the recommended package are spread throughout the city. 9.9 percent of the projects are slated for northwest, 13.7 for northeast, 12.7 for southwest, 19.4 for southeast, 21.5 for central/Central Business District, and 22.8 are considered “regional” projects not tied to one area of the city


The projects also fall into all different transportation “investment modes,” including arterials, highways, neighborhood streets, pedestrian/bike/trails, boardwalks, and transit. Monies allocated for the projects listed in the draft proposal are all expected to be obligated over the next two years, though some projects will not be completed, or even see ground-breakings, by then.


According to Spillar, 83.5 percent of the bond funds will be used for the implementation of proposed projects. Another 6.3 percent will be used for preliminary engineering, and 10.2 percent will be spent on design.


At the top of the priority list presented yesterday sits a project to relocate utilities in preparation for great streets (beautification) and bus platforms for rapid bus on Lavaca and Guadalupe streets. Those buses would run from Cesar Chavez to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The proposal is for $2 million for the design of the project.


Some of the other projects ranked in the top 10 include multi-modal improvements to Riverside Drive ($600,000), reconstructing and expanding pedestrian capacity on Third Street from Trinity to Shoal Creek ($8 million), reconstructing and adding bike lanes and sidewalks on Manchaca Road, ($100,000), improving the MLK corridor ($450,000), and building a boardwalk trail over Lady Bird Lake ($17 million), a project that is ready to go to construction in January 2011.


In a statement released Monday, City Manager Marc Ott said, ”This bond package represents a balanced approach to improving mobility and connectivity – via roads, bicycle paths, trails, sidewalks and transit infrastructure. It also plants the seeds for regional advances that will help us respond effectively to future growth.”


Citizens can voice their opinions about the proposed bond package at an open house with transportation staff and members of the task force this Thursday at City Hall from 4-8pm. On June 28 and July 12 staff will present the final bond package to the task force for recommendations and it is slated for Council consideration on July 29.


If the Council decides to put the matter on the ballot, voters will then have their say on Nov. 2.

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