In 2000, Capital Metro proposed spending $1.9 billion for a light rail system with 52 miles of track on existing streets. The referendum was narrowly defeated at the polls. In 2004, after four years of additional lobbying by Capital Metro, a commuter rail plan — to be built on pre-existing freight rail lines — won voter approval. Capital MetroRail's new line was scheduled for completion by December 2008, but the opening has been delayed indefinitely due to continued construction problems.
Texas state law requires a referendum on rail projects for cities smaller than 750,000 people. This only applies to the capitol city of Austin, and may not once the 2010 census figures are released. Nevertheless, Austin remains committed to voting. They are considering a modern streetcar, and their highest priority is the vote.
The Austin Chronicle asks: Will Austinites ever get to vote on building the dang thing? Both Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Transportation Department Director Rob Spillar say they're doing everything possible to prepare for a "mobility referendum" in November 2010.Austin respects its citizens, and sees them as partners in the ongoing development of the city. That's why they view voting on the plan as more important than the plan itself. We want Cincinnati to be just as thoughtful and inclusive. Issue 9 will accomplish that. Vote YES ON ISSUE 9.
To allow policy-makers and the community to decide the issue at an election, the Transportation Department has established an ambitious schedule of planning, environmental assessment, and preliminary engineering work. Meanwhile, different consultants will be creating a citywide Strategic Mobility Plan. They'll need to deliver the essential facts within six months. The full scope of work includes public vetting, technical proofing, accurate cost estimates, a funding plan, and more. Good, hard numbers are essential for voter confidence and future-phase federal funding.
In late October 2007, former Mayor Wynn called for a rail transit referendum in November 2008. That rally failed due to lack of effective leadership, Watson's decision to prioritize CAMPO process over calling an election, Cap Metro's troubles, general political fumbling, and – most importantly – no clear funding plan. Every six months, another missed election opportunity rolls by: May 2009, November 2009, May 2010. So for those who lust after rail transit, November 2010 looms large. For years, there's been consensus that a well-conceived system with a strong funding plan would win voter endorsement. We just can't seem to call an election.
"We're going to do everything possible to put the information on the table, within six to eight months," Spillar pledged. "Then this spring, the policy-makers are going to decide whether to go forward with an election or not."