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ATD reveals next steps for start of street impact fee system

Thursday, April 7, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The Austin Transportation Department is prepared to begin assessing its new street impact fee on developments this summer, and has prepared a rough list of 35 projects spread across the city that will be the first to get funding from the new fees.

At a recent meeting of the Urban Transportation Commission, ATD staff explained many of the steps that have been completed following City Council’s approval of the fee in late 2020. Though fees will be assessed beginning in June, projects selected for completion using those funds likely won’t begin until late 2023 or 2024 because the city can’t leverage against future revenues to raise project money more quickly. The new fees, which replace the existing mitigation fee that is part of the city’s transportation review for new developments, are expected to generate around $50 million in revenue each year.

The presentations to the commission outlined the steps that will be taken in the coming months to inform the development community about how the fees will be calculated for projects that generate 10 or more car trips during peak evening travel hours.

The city has scheduled three webinars, beginning April 20, with separate sessions for small- and large-scale developers seeking to learn who must pay the fee, how fees will be calculated and how the funds will be used.

“We’re realizing there are different people that pull building permits other than the developer or the applicant themselves, and so we want to give extra attention to those that are dealing with one-off developments or smaller developments so they will understand the interaction that will go on,” said Curtis Beaty, manager of transportation development services. “A lot of the larger-scale developments and bigger projects have attorneys and consultants that are already providing all of the information for (the developers).”

Beaty said projects that are already partially through their planning and approval process when the new fee is instituted in June will likely avoid having to comply with the new program, but said there will be some “judgment calls” depending on what round of review a project has completed.

In considering what projects could be addressed first, ATD had to consider a number of criteria from state laws, such as that increasing road capacity is required but improvements such as turn lanes, land acquisition for rights of way and intersection work are eligible.

A master list of more than 1,100 projects – requiring almost $3 billion in funds – planned for Austin roads was used to begin identifying the projects that could be funded with the street impact fee. Based on population, transit infrastructure and other considerations, the department divided the city into 17 zones to allocate the number of projects more evenly.

From that process, 122 were selected for future completion with the initial list of 35 projects slated for release soon to gather public feedback before final plans are made.

“One of the things that we had to wrap our minds around when we were starting to think about how this would get implemented is that it’s not one list of 1,100 projects; it’s 17 different lists of 20-100 projects because of the way that funding is restricted to different service areas,” said Dan Hennessey, engineering consultant for ATD. “In historically underinvested areas or socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of the city we wanted to make sure those areas were highlighted. Not necessarily because a specific project is going to help those historical inequities, but so that we can look very closely and engage that community to see if there is an investment that could make things better and right some past wrongs.”

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been changed since publication to clarify that Street Impact Fee projects must include road capacity elements.

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