The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has established a strategic partnership to facilitate innovative delivery and financing of infrastructure improvements in Austin, Texas. The Emerging Projects Agreement focuses on the City of Austin’s more than $22 billion “Mobility Program of Projects,” a network of projects designed to improve travel throughout the region. Build America Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian and Austin Mayor Kirk Watson signed the agreement at a ceremony at Austin City Hall.
“The bureau’s experts will partner with Austin officials to explore innovative approaches and best practices that can advance projects further into development and construction, so communities benefit sooner from the planned improvements,” said Farajian. “We are dealing with a large and complicated program of projects that will significantly enhance transportation mobility, resiliency, affordability and safety. To deliver this program effectively and efficiently, we need to form a strong partnership, engage all stakeholders, use innovative approaches and best practices, and take advantage of all tools in our toolbox.”
This partnership will help move projects forward to deliver benefits to the growing region, with to the goal of reconnecting communities, using technology to reduce traffic and pedestrian fatalities, and retaining vulnerable local businesses and residents.
“The Emerging Projects Agreement creates a great opportunity for Austin to try new ideas for accelerating mobility projects in a manner that also respects our community values,” said Watson. “I appreciate Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the Build America Bureau, and our Congressional delegation for their continued support and guidance. I hope this partnership will help us deliver critical infrastructure projects more efficiently for our taxpayers.”
Under the agreement, the Build America Bureau and City of Austin will explore opportunities for innovative project planning, procurement, financing, and delivery that could include using low-interest rate financing such as Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans, Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF), Private Activity Bonds (PABs), and technical assistance grants. The preliminary list of projects that could benefit from this partnership include:
- Project Connect, a partnership between the City of Austin, Austin Transit Partnership, and Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority to expand and improve the public transportation network for the entire Central Texas region ($7.1 billion).
- Corridor Construction Program, involving the study, planning, design, and construction of transformative safety and mobility improvements on several significant roadways throughout Austin and Complete Communities infrastructure ($3.6 billion).
- Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) Expansion and Development Program ($4 billion).
- I-35 “Cap and Stitch” Program, involving new freeway caps and community stitches along eight miles of the corridor, as well as efforts to reconnect the community, prioritize equitable transit-oriented development, and address transportation-related environmental justice inequities ($963 million).
- Roadway Extensions, Connections, and Capacity Improvements Program to enhance safety ($250 million).
The Bureau and Austin officials will hold a workshop to engage stakeholders, review the infrastructure needs and help identify the potential innovative solutions next month. Both the City of Austin and USDOT consider infrastructure projects on their potential and in a manner that promotes equity and environmental justice.