Austin’s Project Connect Faces More Hurdles

Two proposed bills in the Texas state legislature call for more voter oversight of the mass transit project, which could imperil the transit expansion approved by voters in 2020.

1 minute read

April 25, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Rendering of blue light rail train and people walking around train station in Austin, Texas

Rendering of proposed Project Connect light rail station. | Project Connect / Project Connect light rail rendering

Despite approving a tax to fund Project Connect in 2020, Austin voters may once again have to vote on the light rail project, reports Kelsey Thompson for KXAN. If two proposed bills pass the state legislature, each component of the project would come before voters before it could move forward.

The new laws would require voters to approve the purpose, amount, and tax rate required to pay back debt associated with each project component. Austin Mayor Kirk Watson called the bills, collectively, “a terrible precedent for the Legislature to muck with a voter-approved infrastructure investment.”

According to Watson, voters would also have to approve the issuance of revenue bonds. “Those bonds would be funded by the property tax revenue streams voters approved for Project Connect back in November 2020 — meaning tax bills wouldn’t go up or down as a result of this upcoming election.” 

For Watson, the bills are simply an attempt to kill light rail in Central Texas. Last month, the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) issued a dramatically reduced revision to its plan for the project to cut costs.

Thursday, April 20, 2023 in KXAN

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