Austin City Council approves I-35 improvements, arts grants Thursday

Austin City Council met in person for a hearing on the city's proposed 2021-22 budget. A combination of virtual and in-person speakers addressed council members, many of whom said Austin's attempts at reimagining public safety don't go far enough. (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s what we’re watching ahead of the Austin City Council meeting on Thursday.

Housing contract extensions: Approved

Council voted to extend agreements with Caritas of Austin and Family Eldercare to house people experiencing homelessness. The agreement with Caritas runs through September 2022, and the agreement with Family Eldercare runs through September 2023.

Council to approve cultural arts grants: Approved

Council authorized the city manager to dole out $5.3 million in cultural arts grants. The money comes from COVID-19 stimulus funding.

According to city documents, the grants will go to current contractors in Core and Cultural Heritage Festivals who received less than $10,000 in relief funding from previous grants. A larger pool of the money would go to artists who received less than $1 million but more than $10,000 in relief funding.

City to hire engineer for I-35 improvements: Approved

Council voted to authorize contract negotiations with Arup US, Inc. for engineering related to Interstate 35’s “cap and stitch improvements.” The work wouldn’t cost the city more than $2 million, according to council documents.

The Texas Department of Transportation is proposing a major reconstruction of I-35 through Austin. As TxDOT considers lowering the central portion of I-35, the city says the opportunity exists to create “caps,” or decks covering the highway that can reclaim that property as public space, and “stitches,” or wide bridges that would add enhanced east-west connections across I-35.

The city’s goal is to address long-standing equity and mobility issues regarding the I-35 corridor.

COVID-19 vaccine outreach: Approved

Austin’s COVID-19 vaccine outreach continues with more than $2 million going to eight different organizations for the effort. The outreach will promote the COVID-19 vaccine to populations at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.

Special election for District 4: Approved

Council officially ordered a special election for Jan. 25, 2022, which will decide who will become the next Austin City Council member representing District 4. Sitting council member Greg Casar announced a Congressional run with more than a year left in his term.

If needed, a runoff election would be held March 22, 2022. If a runoff election is not required, the new council member can be sworn in the day the results are canvassed, on Feb. 4, 2022.

According to city staff, the estimated cost of the election is $300,000-$350,000.

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