Austin rail proposal draws opponents and a campaign

Link to article here

This is why there’s ‘no money for roads.’ Rail sucks up more taxpayer money than any road project ever could by comparison. Cost per mile to build is outrageous and maintenance cost canabalize the bus system. Bad deal all the way around. They threw in road projects in hopes of getting this $1.4 billion rail plan off the ground and past unsuspecting voters.
Pro-rail campaign off to fast fundraising start
By Ben Wear
Austin American Staesman
July 15, 2014

A political committee formed to support this fall’s probable $1 billion rail-and-roads bond election in Austin has raised $73,245 , more than half of it coming from downtown Austin interest groups.

That sum dwarfs the $669 raised by Our Rail, a committee founded by Scott Morris, a rail activist who opposes the route chosen for the city’s first electric-powered rail line since streetcars ceased operation about 75 years ago. Another faction led by retired high-tech executive Jim Skaggs that opposes building the rail line, no matter its location, has not yet formed a political action committee and thus did not have to file a report Tuesday.

The Austin City Council will decide in August whether to call the bond election. But in June the council unanimously endorsed a staff plan that included $600 million for an “urban rail” line and $400 million for road projects and some studies of potential future road and rail projects. The rail proposal would have a double-tracked line running roughly from Highland Mall in North Austin, through downtown and east on East Riverside Drive to Grove Drive, with 16 stations and four park-and-ride lots.

The city hopes to get a matching amount from the Federal Transit Administration, but the $1.2 billion total of city and federal money would still leave the city short of the estimated $1.4 billion cost of building the entire 9.5 miles.

The Let’s Go Austin political action committee, in a report covering the Jan. 1 to June 30 period, reported 28 donations, or an average of $2,615 per donation. That average was pulled up considerably by two donations for $32,000 and $5,000 from the Downtown Austin Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for downtown Austin property owners.

The committee has spent $39,176. The bulk of that, $32,000, was a May payment to a Washington, D.C.-based polling firm.