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Since Austin voters approved a property tax rate increase to help fund Project Connect last November, the 13-year, $7.1 billion overhaul of the local transit system has moved full steam ahead.
In addition to the creation of a new oversight organization, Austin City Council has allocated millions of dollars for initial anti-displacement efforts, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has delighted public transit advocates and crews have taken the first steps toward the downtown tunnel.
1. First stop: oversight
(Top left going clockwise) Mayor Steve Adler, Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Veronica Castro de Barrera, Eric Stratton and Tony Elkins.
Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board of trustees created the Austin Transit Partnership, which will oversee the implementation and governance of Project Connect, in December.
The ATP board includes five members: Austin Mayor Steve Adler, representing council; CapMetro board member Eric Stratton; Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, president of Huston-Tillotson University; Veronica Castro de Barrera, principal owner of the VCdB Architecture & Art firm, which designed CapMetro's commuter rail stations; and Tony Elkins, an infrastructure, transportation and project finance professional.
ATP's responsibilities include coordinating resources and implementing anti-displacement strategies.
2. Anti-displacement efforts are moving forward, with $23 million in initial funding
Previous transit projects, including the construction of I-35 in the 1960s, displaced existing Black communities and reinforced segregation. Project Connect aims to avoid continuing this legacy. (Emma Freer/Austonia)
The Project Connect budget includes a historic $300 million anti-displacement fund, of which $100 million is to be spent in the first two years.
In February, Austin City Council allocated an initial $23 million for anti-displacement projects, including land acquisition and preservation, to be spent, ideally, by Sept. 30. The former focuses on providing funding to community-based organizations so that they can buy land in areas vulnerable to gentrification and near Project Connect routes, in the hopes of developing affordable housing on those sites. The latter involves helping preserve existing affordable housing by developing cooperatives among tenants and homeowners in the same areas.
Council Member Ann Kitchen suggested some of the funding be used to acquire land near the forthcoming MetroRapid bus routes at Pleasant Valley and the Expo Center. "I would be concerned if we don't use this $23 million to take advantage of really trying to protect for anti-displacement along those lines that are coming up first," she said at a March 11 housing and planning committee meeting. "Because that was the idea behind upfronting the $23 million this year to get a start on that."
Meanwhile, the city of Austin and ATP have convened a group of residents in need of transit and vulnerable to displacement to help identify equitable ways to allocate the remaining $267 million in funding.
3. A green light for federal funding
Pete Buttigieg marched with Austin Mayor Steve Adler through downtown in 2019 during Austin's Pride Parade. (Pete Buttigieg/Facebook)
The Federal Transit Administration awarded Capital Metro a $900,000 grant in December to support Project Connect planning and anti-displacement efforts. Nearly half of the $7.1 billion budget is expected to come through federal grants. Although this initial grant represents only a fraction of the federal funding required, public transit advocates say Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will be a champion of local initiatives such as Project Connect.
Last week, Buttigieg spoke to KVUE about President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes funding for transit systems. "One remarkable thing about Austin is that with efforts like Project Connect, the city, the community, the people have already made a decision to step up and deliver more infrastructure," he said. The passage of the infrastructure plan would mean "that there will be more federal dollars to back up those communities that are making those tough choices and preparing for the future."
4. Laying the tracks for light rail
A little over two months since Prop A passed, the NEPA process & engineering is underway! A drilling barge will be taking soil samples from Lady Bird Lake—one of the 1st steps in obtaining soil info for the Blue Line bridge over the lake for #ProjectConnect’s proposed Blue Line. pic.twitter.com/CRGJouZS7R— Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) January 14, 2021
Project Connect includes two light rail lines: the orange line, which will run approximately 21 miles from the North Lamar Transit Center at North Lamar Boulevard and Hwy. 183 to Stassney Lane, and the blue line, which will run approximately 15 miles from the North Lamar Transit Center through downtown and east to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
Although the lines aren't expected to open to the public until 2029, engineering and field crews have already begun work on them: finalizing the track plans, taking soil samples under Lady Bird Lake where a downtown tunnel is planned and surveying heritage trees along the rail routes. By this summer, 15% of the design should be complete.
5. Getting the community on board
🚉 Austin's new MetroRail Downtown Station has arrived! In less than 18 months, the much-anticipated downtown station is now open, ahead of schedule and under budget! Watch as we debut the new station and public plaza with @MayorAdler and other city and community leaders. pic.twitter.com/2YFde0Jd8Z— Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) October 22, 2020
CapMetro will host a series of virtual public meetings this week, with a focus on forthcoming stations. Interested in providing feedback on what the stations should look like and offer? You can register for Zoom meetings on Tuesday evening, Wednesday midday or Thursday morning here. Austinites can also share comments with the project team via online survey, phone, email or mail. More information can be found here.
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A week after Texas added two congressional seats and California lost one, state officials reported a population decline in 2020 for the first time in the Golden State's history.
California fell by over 182,000 people from January 2020 to January 2021, dropping almost 0.5% to cap out at around 39.5 million people. It is still the nation's most populous state.
For over thirty years, California has seen more people leave than move in from other states, state officials said, with 6.1 million people moving out and 4.9 million coming in last year. Immigration and births kept California growing, but the state saw a shrink in international migration in 2020 due to COVID and the White House's hold on visas.
Of the steady flow of ex-Californians moving to other states, more are moving to Texas than any other state. Many are relocating to Austin, which has been labeled a "little California" by billionaire resident Elon Musk and continues to grow astronomically.
Meanwhile, California cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco saw a population decline.
With immigration and state migration on the decline, the Golden State was also hit with a spike in deaths- 51,000 people died from COVID in 2020, and all but seven of the state's counties saw death rates higher than the three-year average.
Still, the California Department of Finance said a "slightly positive annual growth" can be expected next year as the state recovers from COVID deaths and political repercussions.
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- 1 1/2 oz of hibiscus-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 2 oz sparkling water
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- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 1 tsp allspice dram
The sun is out, and thousands of Austin FC fans will be as well as Austin FC goes to Kansas to play Sporting Kansas City at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
There's plenty of pub partners to choose from, but here's a few watch parties to help you get in on the action.
Los Verdes watch party at Hopsquad Brewing, 2307 Kramer Lane
Fun fact: @LosVerdesATX brings sleeping bags and they basically live in the grain room between games. They'll emerge from time to time for a cup of coffee and to see if the #verde keeper kit has been released. pic.twitter.com/6HKUEHUFWY— Hopsquad Brewing Co. (@HopsquadBrewing) May 3, 2021
Ol' faithful: Hopsquad Brewing is hosting its weekly watch party, complete with beer, food trucks and the possible release of a new michelada, in partnership with Austin FC fan club Los Verdes. Admission is free, but make sure to bring a lawn chair so you can watch from the brand-new LED screen.
Austin Anthem North at 601 Whitestone Blvd, Cedar Park
Live up North? Looking for a place to catch the match? Join Us this Sunday.— Austin Anthem (@AustinAnthem) May 7, 2021
⚽ #AustinFC 🆚 #SportingKC
🗓 Sun, 5/9. 6:30pm
🍺 $1 off pints with @AustinFC gear and #verde Beer
🌮 Van's Damn Tasty Tacos & Ronburguesas $6 Fried Tots pic.twitter.com/zHRp4H2MIQ
Austin Anthem's 1,000+ audience at watch parties have been legendary, but they're splitting the group into two this week. The North Watch party will be located at Whitestone Brewery, with $1 off discounts if you bring Austin Anthem's signature beer or wear Verde. Tater tots and tacos will be on the menu. RSVP here.
Austin Anthem East at Haymaker, 2301 Manor Road
This week’s beer-storming also brings #LosZanates back to where much of the #AustinFC supporter movement was formed: @HaymakerAustin.— Austin Anthem (@AustinAnthem) May 4, 2021
⚽ #AustinFC 🆚 #SportingKC
🗓 Sun, 5/9. 6:30pm
🐻 2310 Manor Rd
The #Verde watch parties for all of #Austin. Join us!https://t.co/EdiBruetIG pic.twitter.com/7NYsEFLxCf
Austin Anthem is returning to its roots at Haymaker Austin, where much of the group originated. Beer, sandwiches and more will be on the menu for all of East Austin. RSVP here.
Head to a bar near you
If none of these watch parties are quite the right fit for you, 31 bars will be streaming the match in the Austin metro as part of the Austin FC Pub Club.
- Austin Eastciders- Barton Springs, 1530 Barton Springs Rd.
- Austin Eastciders- Collaboratory 979 Springdale Rd. Suite 130
- B.D. Riley's Mueller, 1905 Aldrich St. Unit 130
- The Bon Aire, 9070 Research Blvd
- Bouldin Acres, 2027 S Lamar Blvd
- Casa Chapala, 9041 Research Blvd Suite 100
- The Cavalier, 2400 Webberville Rd Unit A
- Cover 2,13701 N Highway 183
- Cover 3 Anderson Lane, 2700 W Anderson Ln Unit 202
- Happy Chicks, 214 E 6th St.
- Haymaker, 2310 Manor Rd.
- High Five- Anderson Ln, 2700 W Anderson Ln Unit 101
- Local Post Pub, 7113 Burnet Rd
- Pelons, 802 Red River St
- Play on 6th, 620 W 6th St
- Pluckers, various locations
- Revelry On The Boulevard, 6215 N Lamar Blvd
- Revelry- East 6th, 1410 E 6th St
- Rusty Cannon Pub, 730 W Stassney Ln Unit 120
- San Jac Saloon, 300 E 6th Street
- Shiner's Saloon, 422 Congress Ave Unit D
- Shooters Billiards 620, 11416 N FM 620
- Taco Flats, mulitple locations
- Twin Peaks, 701 E Stassney Ln
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