Council says 'yes' to Mayor's $720 million mobility bond

Thursday's Austin City Council meeting eventually became Friday's Austin City Council meeting.
Midnight hit and it just kept right on going.  In the wee hours of the morning, Council approved Mayor Steve Adler's "go big corridor" plan with an 8 to 3 vote.
Several hours later an understandably tired Mayor Adler joined us via conference call to talk about it.

"Austin, over the last 20 years has only done bonds, transportation bonds in the total amount in that 20 years of $640 million.  I think that's one of the reasons why we have the challenges that we have," Adler said.   

Adler says if voters say "yes" to the bond, the tax increase is less than $5 a month for the median homeowner.

He says it's worth it.

"Over half the people in our city live within a mile and a half of these corridors.  Over a third of the people in our city live within a half mile of these corridors.  These are the roads that everybody's on a lot of the time," he said.

Ted Siff with the "Get Austin Moving Coalition" says $720 million will make a big difference in Austin's traffic problems.

"Congestion will be reduced.  Safety on intersections will be improved.  There will be new sidewalks and bike lanes and trails all over the city over the next 6 to 8 years if people vote for this package," Siff said.

So what exactly are we talking about here?  Staff members for Mayor Adler tell Fox 7 some of the ideas for Smart Corridors include "cycle tracks" or protected bike lanes, raised medians, dedicated left turn lanes, signal timing...and "queue jumps" so you won't get stuck behind a bus.

But not everyone on the dais was a fan.  Council Member Ann Kitchen, chair of the Mobility Committee voted "no."  She initially proposed a $300 million plan and later a $500 million one.  We spoke with her before the vote.  She said it was important to have enough money for Austin's needs in 2018.

"We just had a flood mitigation task force report that identified all of the difficulties that we have with our infrastructure for storm water and the other thing is rail.  I think that we have to maintain the option when these studies are finished to consider rail," Kitchen said on Thursday.

You might be wondering..."yeah what about rail?"  Mayor Adler says because there wasn't a lot of time before November, he felt focusing on the corridors was the best way to get consensus.  He says he can't imagine a future Austin without rail though -- and he says this bond will pave the way for it.

"It's not part of this package but I think this package helps put the city in the best position to be able to do that if that's something we want to do," Adler said.

Adler says the next step is for council to work on the ballot language that council will vote on in August.  And then voters will decide in November.  Adler says the campaign to educate voters will be getting started very soon.