by Sebastian Wren
In the final meeting of the current City Council, Chris Riley wanted to tie up some loose ends before retiring. One big loose end is Airport Boulevard, a project he has worked on for years in efforts to improve a stretch of old highway in the heart of Austin in desperate need of improvement.
Riley identified over $20 million dollars in available funds that he thought could be used to make dramatic improvements to the Airport Boulevard area including pedestrian amenities, turn-lane and intersection improvements. This money had been allocated for urban rail, but since urban rail failed in the ballot initiative in November, this money was available for other projects.
Unfortunately Riley’s proposal met vocal opposition from Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison who were opposed to providing so much money for Airport Boulevard. In the end, after negotiations, Tovo was willing to support allocation of just 10% of the funds that Riley had identified ($2 million). Morrison was unwilling to support even that.
Ultimately, the allocation of $2 million for Airport Boulevard improvements was supported by all council members except for Morrison who was the only vote against the proposal. The improvements will include adjusting traffic signal timing and alterations to lane striping, but unfortunately we will probably not see much more improvement than that from this initiative. For more substantial improvements, it is likely that a bond will be necessary.