AUSTIN (KXAN) - Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Friday he does not believe that plans for an urban rail project that would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars has the public support needed to justify moving forward.
"It's become increasingly clear to me that some critical components of a successful system remain, at this point, uncomfortably uncertain," Leffingwell wrote in a blog post just after noon.
"Most importantly, in my view, we do not yet have a sufficient level of certainty regarding a plan to fund and manage operations and maintenance of an urban rail system," he added. "We also do not yet have the degree of certainty that I would like to see as it relates to a prospective federal funding match for construction costs, which is a fundamental need."
Earlier this week, the Austin City Council heard a presentation suggesting that Phase 1 of an urban rail project would would cost taxpayers up to $275 million and could be operational by 2021. The proposal included placing the project on the planned November bond election and aggressively pursuing federal funds to ease burden on local taxpayers.
After Leffingwell made his position known, Capital Metro president Linda Watson issued a statement of support.
"With only five months away from a November ballot and many other competing priorities, we agree with the mayor's decision to allow more time to thoroughly plan and build consensus for an urban rail system that will meet the needs of Austin," she said
Pamela Power, who chairs the Downtown Austin Alliance, agreed with plans to delay the project. But does not want the concept to fall completely by the wayside.
"While we are disappointed urban rail will not be part of the November 2012 bond election, we are confident that it will be a critical component of a successful and comprehensive regional transportation system," Power said. "We strongly support Mayor Leffingwell's plan to move urban rail ahead, as a rail system is a critical, essential piece to addressing our transportation issues."
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