By CLARKE HEIDRICK and CARL RICHIE
When transportation works, our lives work. We can get to work on time, get our kids to school safely and enjoy all this region has to offer. We can cheer the Longhorns on to victory; squeeze in a few laps at Barton Spring pool on the way to work; eat some of the best barbecue in Texas; and get to class on time at Texas State with less stress in our lives.
When congestion strikes, when our kids can’t get to school safely, and when bikes and cars compete for right of way, we all lose and we start our days under stress and in a bad mood.
Austin’s $720-million transportation bond proposal is a solid step toward addressing the mobility needs of the city and contains a good balance of regional mobility projects, corridor mobility projects and local projects like sidewalk, bicycle and urban trail improvements. The proposed improvements are designed to relieve congestion and increase flow on major corridors, build pedestrian infrastructure and create safe routes to school, and improve some of the worst intersections and roadways in western Austin.
If we do nothing, delays will triple.
The bond proposition includes critically needed bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure investments. These will enable more people to live closer to where they work and to walk or ride bikes safely.
Voter approval will authorize a tax increase of $5/month for the average Austin home. That sounds pretty good to us.
AARO also supports the $131-million Hays County transportation bond package. As the fastest-growing county in Texas and the fifth-fastest growing county in the nation, investments in transportation infrastructure are essential. The proposed projects on the Hays bond include improvements that solve safety issues and accommodate future growth. The projects will be built by using pass-through financing in partnership with the State of Texas. The additional upshot for Hays resident: Voter approval will produce no increase in property taxes.
These propositions are a good start on what needs to be done to improve mobility. We know that more is needed—perhaps many billions of dollars more. We’re thankful that our leaders are looking for partners to help cover the eventual cost of total build-out of all projects, because this strategy takes some of the burden off of local property taxes.
Today, we suffer from the consequences of our transportation investment paralysis of the last several years. We take a step forward in November.
There’s something in these bond proposals for everyone today and for those who call Central Texas home for years to come. On behalf of the Austin Area Research Organization, we urge voters in Travis and Hays counties to vote YES on the bond propositions they’ll see on their ballots.
Carl Richie and Clarke Heidrick are both Austin attorneys. Richie is currently president of the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO), and Heidrick is chair of AARO’s transportation committee. AARO is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 100 business, civic and leaders from Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties. AARO members support efforts to make Central Texas an exemplary region: dynamic, thriving and sustainable for all.