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Mobility PAC continues push for transportation bond

Thursday, October 14, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The Get Austin Moving political action committee continues to push its case for the proposed $90 million transportation bond package on this year’s ballot. On Wednesday, the group held a press conference next to a dirt path along North Lamar Boulevard, which was designed to highlight the need for more city sidewalks.


McBee Elementary School Principal Rafael Soriano, Bike Texas’ Fernando Martinez, Urban Transportation Commissioner Boone Blocker, and the PAC’s own Jeb Boyt helped it make the case. “The need is apparent, as we see today where we’ve got about 50 yards of gravel path here along North Lamar,” Boyt said.


“This is just a small example of the sidewalk gaps we’ve got across the city.”


The event came on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement by a new coalition of bond opponents. Headlined by former Mayor and former Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn, that group questioned whether the bond package would do enough to alleviate area road congestion.


For Soriano, it’s about his students. “I’m not endorsing anything,” he said, “(but) it would be great to have (more) sidewalks in this area because my students would be able to walk to school. They cannot … right now.”


Martinez agreed. “The sidewalks … (will) help the kids to bike and walk (in) a safe way to schools,” he said. “(With this) we can increase the number of kids who walk to school in a safe manner.”


Martinez works with Bike Texas’ Safe Routes to School program.


Blocker summed up the reason for the press conference. “Sidewalks are the glue that connects street to street, neighborhood to neighborhood, and area to area, holding the city together in a familiar pattern,” he said.


“Sidewalks,” he then added, “also play a key role in making the city truly accessible to those with disabilities.”


According to Dominic Chavez of Austinites for Action, “Commuters stuck on MoPac or IH 35 during rush hour are not clamoring for more trails or landscaping subsidies for downtown development–they want congestion relief and want it now.”


Get Austin Moving Treasurer Ted Siff dismissed Strayhorn’s group. “(This) … opposition to Proposition 1 comes mainly from a small group of Republican and tea party activists and those with grievances with the city,” he wrote in an email. “These groups, who represent a small number of Austinites, are pushing the same roads-only agenda which has gotten us stuck in traffic in the first place. They even oppose sidewalks that would allow a person confined to a wheelchair a safe route to the corner store and children a safe route to school. As for Carole Keeton McLellan Rylander Strayhorn, Austin voters soundly rejected her recent candidacies for Governor and Mayor, but unsurprisingly, her campaign web sites are still up.”


A spokesperson with Get Austin Moving hinted that more events like yesterday’s press conference could be expected before Election Day.


In addition to the sidewalks, the 2010 bond could bring funding for improvements at the so-called “Y” at Oak Hill, bicycle projects, and work on the Airport Boulevard corridor. If passed, the initiative would come without a tax increase. 


Early voting starts next Monday.

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