Austin taxpayers file lawsuit against City, ATP due to changes to Project Connect

A lawsuit was filed this week by Austin property taxpayers against city leaders and Austin Transit Partnership board members for what taxpayers are calling a breach of contract. 

This comes after they say plans voted on in 2020 for Project Connect were changed without voter approval in June.

"The evidence is clear that the city officials are violating their contract with the voters by not giving taxpayers what they sold them in 2020," says Austin Attorney Bill Aleshire. "The elaborate underground transit station with live music and shopping and restaurants is gone, the light rail connection to the airport is gone, 11 rail stations are gone, gone are 52,500 riders per day."

"Gone are all the reasons that people like me voted for the original proposal. I would never vote for what’s on the table now," says Texas Property Tax Attorney Rick Fine.

The lawsuit requests that the city no longer collect and spend tax dollars for the new plan. After Proposition A approved 8.75 cents of the city’s property tax rate revenue to be dedicated to the Austin Transit Partnership to fund the implementation of Project Connect.

"In the replacement plan now, ignoring the traffic and safety implications the rail line goes down Third Street downtown at street level from Lavaca to Trinity, where there is a new bridge across Lady Bird Lake that voters never approved," said Aleshire.

"The city is legally obligated to go back to the voters with whatever they propose now and seek approval of a bond proposal to fund it," said Fine.

On Wednesday, the Austin Mayor's office released a statement:

"The voters approved this ongoing multi-billion-dollar project that will bring much needed mobility infrastructure to the city of Austin.

As part of the approved proposal by voters, an independent entity – Austin transit partnership – was established to spearhead implementation. We are disappointed to see the new lawsuit challenging project connect, but we will review all allegations carefully and take appropriate next steps."

"Despite my confidence that we are right on the law, I can't guarantee that we win this case, but if we lose, the legislature will know they have got some work to do," said Aleshire.