Leffingwell says it's 'rail or fail' for Austin's future



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Posted on February 25, 2014 at 9:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 25 at 10:00 PM

AUSTIN -- Mayor Lee Leffingwell sounded the alarm on our traffic troubles in his last State of the City address.

The mayor says in order to fix Austin's traffic crisis, the city needs both roads and rail, saying it's “rail or fail.”

He spoke at a sold-out luncheon at the Four Seasons as a guest of the Real Estate Council of Austin.

The mayor has ten months left in office and grave a bright outlook on Austin, including how the unemployment rate is lower than the state and national rate. He cited incentives that brought major employers, including Apple and Facebook, to the city.

"In its 174-year history, the state of our city has never, ever been stronger, and it's getting stronger every single day,” said Leffingwell.

He cautioned that continued prosperity depends on transportation. An estimated 110 people move to the Austin metropolitan area every day, bringing with them 70 cars on the roads. Leffingwell called  the traffic crisis a threat.

"Our traffic problem isn't just an annoyance. It is a deadly serious threat to almost all of the things we have achieved and continue to strive toward,” said Leffingwell.

The mayor said Austin must invest now in a real multi-modal mass transit system.

"I think it's safe to say that the next recommendation will likely be for the first phase of an urban rail system through Central Austin," said Leffingwell.

He said he hopes that will land on the November ballot.

Austin's director of transportation, Robert Spillar, says the city has been studying this and will have a recommendation for investment around May.

“Whether that be Metro Rapid type bus service improvements or rail, that’s what we’ll be taking to council,” said Spillar.

On a lighter note, Leffingwell joked he’s recording an album of duets with Willie Nelson, having already laid tracks, including “On the Road Again”, and some of the mayor’s originals.

“Like the ever popular 'Please Take Your Conversation Outside,' 'I’m Sorry But Your Three Minutes Are Up,' and 'That Passes on a Vote of 5 to 2,' laughed Leffingwell.