A Meeting with the Mayor about Project Connect
One of the hot issues on this November’s ballot is Project Connect, Austin’s proposed first urban rail line. Mayor Leffingwell invited the officers of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association for a meeting devoted to that topic on August 7, one of a series of meetings he held with representatives of the neighborhoods most directly affected by the proposed rail line. Co-president Lorre Weidlich, co-vice presidents Kathy Lawrence and Mark Fishman, co-secretaries Artie Gold and Adrian Skinner, and Transportation chair Mike Pikulski attended.
It has been around 15 years since light rail was on the ballot in Austin. The current proposal has taken several years to develop; and if it is defeated, another 10 years are likely to pass before the issue reaches the ballot again. Many details of the current proposal are still undecided; they will not be addressed unless voters pass the proposal.
Mayor Leffingwell assured those of us in attendance that the proposed line was selected due to metrics. It is, in fact, the combination of two lines that were under consideration. He didn’t explain all of the metrics but did touch on the following items:
- The proposed line accesses a 28-acre area ripe for development. Given Austin’s escalating population, that was a consideration.
- There are no matching funds available for the Guadalupe-Lamar line, which made it a less appealing choice.
The Mayor and his staff were open to questions and received several. After around an hour, the meeting broke up. Responses to the meeting were mixed. For example, Adrian Skinner said, “While I appreciate the forum the mayor provided to pose questions, there appears to be little desire on the city’s side to address our concerns and no desire to alter the planned ballot measure.” There was no disagreement with the assessment that Austin’s congestion problem needs to be addressed, but there was serious concern over the selected route, because of its duplication of current rail routes between Hancock and Highland ACC and because of perceived preferential treatment toward the University of Texas.
The Ice Cream Social
Shipe Park proved to be a pleasant meeting place for this annual social, and we want to thank Kathy Lawrence and her team of volunteers for making it a success. Several City Council candidates showed up to join us, and we all enjoyed cones and bowls of cool, sweet, and fattening pleasure.
With the descent of fall, the temperature may drop but political activity in Austin is reaching a boiling point. Look to upcoming neighborhood association meetings for opportunities to meet candidates and hear issues discussed.
–Kevin Heyburn & Lorre Weidlich