With Travis bonds approved, officials look to jump-start projects

Nov 08, 2017
Qiling Wang
Morning traffic is busy at Gilbert Road and FM 969. The Travis County bond would extend Harold Green so that there would be an alternative exit to Texas 130.

After Travis County voters signed off on a $185 million roads, parks and drainage bond package this week, the Commissioners Court will likely move forward Thursday on an unprecedented approach of hiring consultants to speed up project completion.

During a special voting session Thursday, commissioners will decide whether to accept a county staff recommendation to hire a program manager consultant and general engineering consultant.

“In order to get these projects done in the four to five year time frame we’re shooting for, we are needing additional resources,” said Cynthia McDonald, chief deputy for the county’s ‎Transportation and Natural Resources department.

Assuming commissioners approve of the proposal, McDonald said staff hopes to have the consultants hired by January. The cost for the consultants was included in the bond package estimates.

County staff’s tentative schedule for the bond projects indicates that the projects most likely to break ground next year include the addition of a right turn lane on westbound Bullick Hollow Road at RM 2769 and the conversion of Northeast Metropolitan Park’s soccer fields to synthetic turf plus other improvements.

Both propositions passed Tuesday with about 73 percent of the vote. Proposition A covers $93.4 million in roads and drainage projects. Proposition B, covers $91.5 million in parks and land conservation projects.

Turnout was slightly higher this year than the last off-year election in 2015, when Travis County voters narrowly rejected a bond for a new civil courthouse. During early voting, 5.5 percent of registered voters showed up to cast their ballots this year compared to 4.21 percent in 2015; and on Election Day, 7.91 percent showed up this year compared to 7.45 percent in 2015.

Despite some initial concern that the $1.1 billion Austin schools bond would create taxpayer fatigue in conjunction with Travis County’s, that bond passed Tuesday night as well.

“We are eager to get started on the much needed projects that will come as a result of these bond packages,” the Travis County Commissioners Court wrote in a statement.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt also showed her delight with the results in a statement on her Facebook page.

“We’re incredibly grateful that the voters of Travis County agreed that this prudent and well-crafted package of investments in safety, mobility and open space is worthy of public support,” Eckhardt wrote. “Thank you to the members of the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee for developing the bond package and to all our supporters!”

The Travis County Taxpayer’s Union did not take an official stance on the bonds, instead focusing all of its efforts on opposing the Austin schools bond. The group’s director, Don Zimmerman, previously said he might have been supportive of the Travis County bond if it included more roads projects and fewer conservation projects.