Texas Legislation Would Add More Roadblocks for Transit Funding in Austin

A former Austin city councilmember, now at the Texas State Legislature, is trying to make it harder for Austin Transit Partnership to borrow money to fund Project Connect, the Austin region’s big, ambitious transit investment plan.

2 minute read

March 20, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

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Phillip Arno Photography / Shutterstock

Project Connect, Austin’s plan to transform public transit in the region, is facing a new obstacle in the Texas State legislature. According to an article by Nathan Bernier for KUT, new legislation under consideration at the state legislature would limit the ability of the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) to borrow money.

“The proposals — House Bill 3899 and Senate Bill 1791 — would force the ATP to hold a citywide election before borrowing large amounts of money to pay for the expensive upfront costs of building the light-rail system. ATP estimates it would need to borrow up to $2.5 billion and plans to repay the money with its existing stream of tax revenue,” reports Bernier.The bill was written by Republican state Rep. Ellen Troxclair, a former Austin City Council. Rep. Troxclair is quoted in the article saying the legislation will ensure transperancy for the Project Connect funding process.

The report about the new legislation comes just a few days before ATP is expected to announce proposals for scaling back the planned project scope of Project Connect, due to cost overruns associated with engineering challenges, inflation, and labor shortages.  The original plan would have added two new light rail lines, four new rapid bus routes, and a new commuter rail line. Project Connect also called for expanded service on the Red Line, the city’s only existing rail transit route and add new on-demand transit capacity.

The article suggests that if passed, the legislation could cost Austin when it goes for federal funding in competitive grant processes.

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