Mobility Committee Cautiously Embraces Bond Proposal

The City Council Mobility Committee convened yesterday with some extra Council faces on the dias to hear presentations from CapMetro on Connections2025 and Project Connect and a briefing from Assistant City Manager Robert Goode on staff’s study into a 2016 Mobility Bond before opening a public discussion intended to steer a possible referendum in the coming weeks.

Roughly two dozen speakers testified, all in favor of various bond proposals put forth recently by Mayor Adler and Council Members Casar (District 4) and Pool (District 7), both of which use staff’s high target of $720MM.  Following testimony, the Mobility Committee surprised several in the chamber by endorsing on a 4-0 vote a smaller proposal by Council Member Kitchen (District 5) that totaled $300MM.  Additional reporting is available through the Austin Monitor here.

NCINC2 Chair Brendan Wittstruck reiterated the organization’s call for a city-led study for the IH35 corridor through north central, citing concerns that the TxDOT plans are too deleterious to be ignored by future city planning.  His remarks are below:

The story of this bond will be told in the city’s corridors.

We know these streets.  When they succeed, they are lynchpins of movement, generators for transit and vital meeting spaces between neighborhood edges.

When they fail, they prioritize the movement of cars over the social environments we should create.  When they fail, they pre-ordain the singularity of the automobile, they create the traffic we say we so loathe and they entice the speed that we know is killing Austinites in stunning numbers. 

This bond is an opportunity to realize the most transformative, most mode-shifting elements of our previous corridor planning efforts.  And this bond is an opportunity to identify and fund our next transformative corridors in all districts, with the goal of having not half, but 100% of Austin’s population living within 2 miles of such a corridor. 

Everything in this bond should support a story of transforming our corridors into places for people.  There should be nothing in this bond that doesn’t help tell that story.

There should be no pork barrel intersection funding that reinforces the tired bifurcation between the single-vehicle exurbs and the multi-modal city.  There should be no additional lanes on FM 969 or turn lanes that increase pedestrian crossing distances.  There should be no disconnecting our vibrant places with “super streets” and diverging diamond interchanges that do not belong in our city.

And we must ensure that we do not abdicate our responsibility to see that the future of IH35 is a future for Austin and not through Austin. 

I want to commend the hard work of the Mayor and his staff in working with Senator Watson to fund IH35’s future without leveraging the City’s resources against it.  But we cannot, in light of this, acquiesce the fate of our largest corridor solely to TxDOT, whose even most current plans split neighborhoods from one other, spill noise and air pollution into homes, prohibit comfortable and safe passage across and along the corridor and do next to nothing to build connections in downtown.  

This is why the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 2 has asked for a study of the IH35 corridor that appeals to the interests of a city, and why I repeat that appeal as part of this bond.