Thu May 17, 2012
A Couple Winners (But a Bunch More Losers) in the Austin Bond Proposal
Yesterday, KUT News took a look at what made the cut in the city’s latest proposal for a bond spending package. Today, we look at what took the biggest hits, and the few areas that saw a boost in funding.
Several projects and programs initially pitched to the City of Austin’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force saw dramatic cuts in funding, or have been cut out all together in efforts to slim down the bond proposal, currently priced at $575 million.
So where are the cuts coming from? KUT News took a deeper look at proposals that got the ax, comparing what’s in the current $575 million package to an initial, $1.5 billion “needs assessment.” Here’s what we found:
Parks: $126.3 million in cuts
Initial needs assessment: $237.7 million
Currently recommended amount: $150 million
- Waller Creek
Initial needs assessment: $40.5 million
Currently recommended amount: $10 million
$30.5 million was cut from the original amount earmarked for design and construction of creek and trail improvements in the nascent Waller Creek district, between Lady Bird Lake and East 12th Street. The project includes design and construction for stream bank stabilization, re-vegetation, trails, lighting, signs and more.
- District Parks
Initial needs assessment: $13 million
Currently recommended amount: $4.5 million
$8.5 million was cut from an initial request for improvements and renovations for neighborhood parks. The project covers park improvements to accessibility, infrastructure, structures, picnic and play equipment, site furnishings, landscaping and more.
Transportation: $44 million in cuts
Initial needs assessment: $252.6 million
Currently recommended amount: $208.7 million
- Street Construction Proposal:
Initial needs assessment: $90 million
Currently recommended amount: $46.5 million
Nearly half the budget of this project’s initial request was cut. The street construction proposal would replace failing streets, bikeways, sidewalks, curbs and gutters throughout Austin.
- I-35 Safety and Traffic Improvements:
Initial needs assessment: $50 million
Currently recommended amount: $35 million
Funds for an Interstate 35 safety and mobility project were cut by $15 million. The proposal aims to redesign I-35 facilities to “address congestion, high pedestrian crash rates and disruptive lane closures due to accidents.”
City Facilities: $24 million
Initial needs assessment: $122.8 million
Currently recommended amount: $98.8 million
- 911 Dispatch Center
Initial needs assessment: $14.6 million
Currently recommended amount: $4 million
$10 million was cut from a project proposed to expand the 9/11 dispatch center located at 5010 Old Manor Rd. The project includes the construction of a 600-space parking garage, a new driveway and entrance, and relocation of utility lines.
Community: $12 million in cuts
- Mexic-Arte Museum
Initial needs assessment: $10 million
Currently recommended amount: $3 million
$7 million was chopped from funds earmarked for the construction of a new Mexic-Arte Museum in downtown Austin.
Affordable housing: $0
Only two projects were named under affordable housing. Both a general housing affordability fund (at $100 million), and creation of a new, affordable community in Colony Park got the nod, although portions of the Colony Park project – construction of a new roadway and utility costs – are now listed as a transportation project.
Cut to the Bone: Projects That Didn’t Make It
- The Fire Department took the biggest hit in cuts to its initial needs assessment. Fire’s proposals for new stations in Travis County ($76.35 million), and Grand Ave Parkway ($9.4 million), plus replacements for Fire Station 1 and a new headquarters ($76.35 million) were not recommended in the task force’s final proposal.
- Austin Police took some hits in the latest proposal as well. Department substations for Central West ($76.35 million) and Southwest Austin ($16.2 million) disappeared, along with plans for a new APD headquarters ($TK million?).
- An ambitious $3.4 million plan to convert Third, Fourth, Ninth, 10th, Colorado, Brazos, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Neches streets from one-way to two-way didn’t get the OK from the task force either.
So Did Anything Get a Boost?
- A community building project is one of few proposals that saw an increase in recommended funding. Funds earmarked for a new community building at Montopolis Neighborhood Park grew by $6.5 million, bringing the current package to $15.5 million.
- The affordable housing program saw a $25.5 million increase, leaving the current proposal at $100.5 million.