AUSTIN (KXAN) — The clock is now ticking for the City of Austin to finish up $460 million worth of road projects following an Austin City Council vote earlier this month that approved the release of funds.
Austin crews will now have six years to finish all the projects laid out by the 2020 mobility bond.
“This bond program works to expand existing programs that we have within the city,” explained Eric Bailey, the assistant director for Capital Project Delivery at the city’s Public Works Department.
Bailey is referring to the ongoing 2016 and 2018 mobility bonds. All three make up the city’s mobility bond program.
For the 2020 bond voters approved in November of 2020, the funds are separated into categories.
Here’s a look at the 2020 mobility bond’s projects:
Major Capital Improvements: $102 million
This includes funding to design and construct a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Lady Bird Lake near the Longhorn Dam Bridge, the Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative, the creation of a Preliminary Engineering Report for Barton Springs Road between Barton Boulevard to Lou Neff Road, in coordination with the Zilker Park Vision Plan process.
South Pleasant Valley Corridor Improvements, as well as additional funds, up to $5 million, to build additional pedestrian and other infrastructure for projects that are part of the 2016 bond.
Sidewalks: $80 million
The money will be used to construct and rehabilitate “high and very high priority” sidewalk segments. It will also go to meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The bond projects follow the Sidewalk and ADA Transition Plan — $50 million for about 78 miles of new sidewalks and $30 million for rehabilitation of existing sidewalks.
Urban Trails: $80 million
Funding here would go to transportation-related Urban Trails including the construction of about 30% of “Tier I urban trails” and identifying routes and developing designs for “Tier II urban trails.” This work would also include connections to existing transportation infrastructure.
Safety/Vision Zero: $65 million
The city says funding here would go to the following:
- Intersection reconstruction projects at an estimated 25 major intersections.
- Speed mitigation projects on approximately 70 street segments.
- System-wide pedestrian crossing projects.
- A variety of rapid response projects on the High-Injury Network.
Substandard Streets: $53 million
This would address road improvements that currently ” do not meet current City street standards for safety, mobility and drainage.” That includes works on Johnny Morris Road, Ross Road, Cooper Lane, Circle S Road and more.
Bikeways: $40 million
Projects under this category follow the Austin Bicycle Plan’s All Ages and Abilities Bicycle Network (AAA Bicycle Network), which was updated in the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan Bicycle Priority Network. The city says the $40 million “would achieve 70% of the on-street AAA Bicycle Network.”
Safe Routes to School: $20 million
There are more than 4,000 potential projects listed in the Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Reports that would improve safety for elementary and middle school students walking or bicycling to and from school. The $20 million would be used to implement some of those projects addressing about “8% of the high and very high priority Safe Routes to School projects citywide.”
Local Transit Enhancement Program: $19 million
Funding here would go to “projects not delivered by Project Connect.” For example, that could be used for transit projects “to address reliability, speed, and safety of local bus service and transit access, as well as funding for shared micromobility fleet expansion, first and last-mile connections, and communications technology.”
Neighborhood Partnering Program: $1 million
This money would go to transportation mobility projects the city says would be “built through community-led partnerships.”
First up on the list is a contract that includes the addition of speed bumps along Loyola Lane between Northeast Drive and Manor Road in an effort to slow down drivers. That same contract will look to make it safer for people to cross the street at 20 spots across the city including Wickersham Lane, Convict Hill Road, Oak Springs Drive and Springdale Road.
These are changes those at the city’s transportation department hope will aid in keeping people safe especially following a deadly year on Austin roads.
“We’re really going to be trying to address things systematically,” said Anna Martin, Austin Transportation Department Assistant Director So spreading work around the whole city to make pedestrian crossings safer to shorten the distance that pedestrians have to do to travel across a road.
Close to 120 people died on Austin roads in 2021. So far this year, KXAN data shows there have been 20 deadly crashes as of March 28 with some of the crashes involving pedestrians.
“Cars aren’t going away,” Bailey said. “There’s no question about that but you know, the more we can get folks into alternate modes of transportation, and make those modes, easier for people and more accessible and safer, I think that’s really the key.”
It’s a goal city leaders would like to accomplish sooner rather than later.
Starting next year, taxpayers will notice the start of a two-cent tax increase to pay for the bond. The tax will be phased in through 2026. At which time, taxpayers will pay the full two-cent tax. That’s about $100 a year using today’s median home price of $500,000. Right now, the city estimates it will take about 20 years to pay off the bond but depending on the housing market could be paid off sooner.