AUSTIN (KXAN) — With hundreds of millions of dollars needed to support the City of Austin’s Interstate 35 Cap and Stitch program, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly submitted a memo Wednesday urging city leadership to evaluate possible public-private partnerships to support funding the initiative.
Kelly shared a copy of her memo in a social media post Wednesday afternoon. The memo, addressed to Interim City Manager Jesús Garza, requested looking into those partnerships “as a potential avenue for funding and managing the Cap and Stitch projects, as well as other future infrastructures projects in the City of Austin.”
In her memo, Kelly also requested more information on the city’s current Certificate of Obligation bond capacity “and the possibility of issuing a public response to these inquiries to inform our residents.”
Public-private partnerships have historically been used as a means of funding infrastructure projects. Working with private sector partners can lean into their expertise “while sharing the risks and rewards of these projects,” Kelly wrote in her memo.
She added a public-private collaboration could help reduce the costs of projects like the Our Future 35 Cap and Stitch program, as well as result in more timely solutions for infrastructure projects across the city.
“My recommendation is that we consider conducting a comprehensive study to assess the potential benefits of [public-private partnerships] for the Cap and Stitch project, so as not to delay the infrastructure execution and further support and develop our relationship with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT),” Kelly wrote.
It comes just a few weeks after the City of Austin’s mobility committee discussed the funding costs for the Cap and Stitch program. That figure is estimated near roughly $730 million, with city officials needing to identify those funding sources to TxDOT by December 2024 in order for the caps to move forward.
The City of Austin did approve in late September submitting an application for a $105.2 million grant, with the funding available through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program. However, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the additional $625 million estimated for the program, with just over a year to identify all possible funding sources secured.
Kelly’s memo comes a week after Council Member José “Chito” Vela shared his own concerns over securing those funds, with him expressing support for a possible supplemental bond election next fall. If the city were to pursue a bond election, he said he would see it as a way for voters to decide whether to fill out any remaining funding gaps prior to TxDOT’s December 2024 deadline.
“We need to look at all possible funding opportunities,” he told KXAN Oct. 11, adding: “But will those (federal) sources in and of themselves be enough to pay for everything that we want to do along the corridor? I’m not sure that will be the case.”