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$7.1B 'Project Connect' transit plan headed to November ballot

The project includes light rails and underground trains.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin voters will now have a $7.1 billion transit project to consider before heading to the polls in November – Capital Metro's "Project Connect."

The Austin City Council voted unanimously Aug. 7 to approve a commitment to voters for how tax dollars for the project will be used. The resolution directs tax dollars that could be collected from the Project Connect Tax Revenue to be used to fund a citywide transit plan. 

Then, during the City's budget adoption process on Thursday, the council approved an order for a special election for the purpose of submitting a proposed tax rate that exceeds the voter approval rate, for the purpose of funding and authorizing the Project Connect Transit System. The approved budget assumes a property tax rate of 53.35 cents per $100 of taxable value, which consists of an 8.75-cent tax rate for Project Connect and 44.60 for City operations.

If voters accept the proposed tax rate of 53.35 cents in November, the City tax bill for the typical homeowner (defined as the owner of a median-valued [$326,368] non-senior home) would be $1,741.17 per year or $145.10 per month. This would be an increase of $332.39 per year or $27.70 per month.

If voters turn it down, the increased tax rate won't be added to property tax bills and the money won't go anywhere. 

Project Connect is the plan to add transportation upgrades such as underground trains and light trails around the city. The project would also include upgrades to the city's bus system and new park and rides.

RELATED: Project Connect transit plan could cost taxpayers hundreds of dollars a year

"We're building a better future in Austin for everyone," City Councilmember Ann Kitchen said Friday. 

City council and Capital Metro also voted unanimously on Friday to create an independent board, Austin Transit Partnership, to implement "Project Connect" if it's approved by voters. 

That board would "reduce some government bureaucracy," ensuring that the project is moving quickly and efficiently using taxpayers' dollars, the CEO of CapMetro told KVUE.

"Hopefully we can take the final step to give voters the chance to vote on Project Connect in November," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. "After decades of delay, millions of conversations ... We need transit now."

"We've got a lot more to go and I pledge to you all I will not slow down. We've got elections to go out and win," added Wade Cooper, Capital Metro board chair

Hours before city council made the decision last week, Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke joined KVUE Daybreak to discuss the agency's vision for the project.

"It's a transformational transit plan, something this community's been talking about for 20 years," Clarke said. "It involves multiple new rail lines, bus rapid transit lines throughout the city, more express bus park and rides. Really a better way, more choices, for people to get around a really fast-growing community. [It will] help us deal with traffic, environmental concerns and really better connect people to opportunities throughout our whole community."

WATCH: 'Project Connect': Austin CapMetro CEO talks vision

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