Council approves funding for Lone Star Rail from Georgetown to San Antonio
KVUE — Lone Star Rail moved one step closer to alleviating traffic issues along the Interstate 35 corridor after the Austin City Council voted to support the funding to maintain and operate a regional passenger rail line.
"I think it's a feasible way to fund a transportation system without having to go to property tax and I think we ought to look at it," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
Lone Star Rail District manager Joe Black said Thursday's vote by the council is important. "This was a really big deal for us," said Black.
The Lone Star Rail District was formed in 2003 to bring solutions to Central Texas' transportation problems. Black said voters refusing Austin's Proposition 1 in November disappointed him, but this project would be different.
"Urban rail was kind of a hybrid light rail, street car project really meant to handle more close-in traffic," said Black. "What we are, though, is a much more regional system. We'll be serving counties all the way from Williamson County to Bexar County."
The project would need about $1.8 billion to be completed, and before the state and federal government provides the money, Lone Star Rail needs to prove they have the money to operate and maintain the system.
Austin City Council agreed this week that if Lone Star Rail builds its seven to eight stops, they can have 50 percent of the increased property tax value to put towards running the line.
"You can arguably say those improvements would not be there without the rail so you're getting 50 percent of something instead of 50 percent of nothing," said Black.
Austin's support is not a sure thing. Before the rail system can break ground, they need the support of both Hays and Travis Counties as well as small cities within their limits. This will be their goal for 2015.
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