April 19, 2007
Good afternoon. Here’s a quick update on a couple of big transportation votes in the Senate this week.First off, the moratorium on highway privatizations passed the Senate today. As I’ve written, this is a compromise bill putting a two-year freeze on contracts that lease or sell toll roads to private corporations, while ensuring a few needed projects around Texas can move forward. The focus of this moratorium, of course, would be the Trans Texas Corridor.This bill would give the state two years to evaluate its transportation needs and the tools at its disposal. It also would allow us all to make sure TXDOT’s dramatic new transportation policies are treating us as valued constituents.The other big news is that the Senate overwhelmingly approved SB 1688, our effort to bring badly needed planning tools to the zone around State Highway 130, the new highway that’s being built east of town.This bill would have nothing to do with the actual construction of SH 130 – it would simply help the City of Austin cope with the implications of it. The bill would allow the City Council to create a “transportation infrastructure district” in areas just outside Austin’s city limits. If voters approve it – and only if voters approve it – Austin would be able to do zoning and land-use planning in the district with heavy input from residents and landowners. Residents there also would be allowed to vote in City Council elections.Voters could also allow the district to collect property taxes that would go toward water lines, streets, and other infrastructure that we need to create the office buildings, shopping centers, and homes we want in this new growth corridor. Again, this taxation requires a vote of folks in the district – no voter approval, no new taxes.The money would not go toward SH 130 in any way. It simply would help landowners and residents there confront the challenges that this road presents and maximize the economic development opportunities it offers. Both of these good bills are now headed to the House of Representatives.