Funding the Deal

When Senator Watson and Mayor Adler announced their deal last May 26th, they were both a few dollars shy of making it work. Senator Watson acknowledged this on his website, “Of course, we still need to solve various parts of the $4.3 billion funding puzzle” for construction on IH35. About $300 million worth of work is just starting. Mayor Adler is starting even farther behind, given that there is another cost in his plan that will be added to the city budget if the $720 million bond package passes next month. The Austin Transportation Department has not yet even hired an estimated 20–25 employees (item 6) to make the plan on how to utilize the $720 million in bond money should the Go Big Corridor Plan be approved.

The map on the large four-color mailer the Move Austin Forward political action committee mailed to Austinites represents some or perhaps even all of the 10–30 years work and $9.5 billion identified by the city of Austin. What you are getting as part of the $720 million is $482 million for construction on the corridors listed as items 1–7. Items 8 and 9 are future studies to be done, there are no plans to take off the shelf. How that money is to be allocated between the corridors and what will be built is unknown beyond the mayor’s conflicting statements to various Austin audiences he seeks to persuade and the misrepresentations of the Move Austin Forward PAC.

The map in this Move Austin Forward PAC mailer does not correspond to the dollar amounts given.

Your city council doubted Mayor Adler’s figures for the $720 million in bonds on the ballot next month, and asked several questions which were answered in a memorandum from Assistant City Manager Goode (question 7, PDF). The actual cost of what the mayor has proposed thus far is $1.5 billion, and that only includes the portion of item 5 above from Highway 183 to Decker Lane, not the entire corridor to Webberville. So the mayor is going to be seeking slightly over $1 billion in additional funds for items 1–7 above and $8.8 billion is yet to be found for all the projects the city of Austin staff has identified.

On the exact same day that Senator Watson and Mayor Adler presented their deal to the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, respectively, the city of Austin staff released a report on what Austinites said they wanted. Of the 76% of respondents currently navigating the city streets alone in their vehicle (question 1 & pie chart), 61% would like to try out a different mode of transportation (question 2 & pie chart below).

The information in this report was released May 26th and presented to the city council on June 1st.

Given what these people said they wanted, I hope Mayor Adler’s road-heavy plan will be defeated by the voters who will turn out for early voting this month and on election day next month.