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Federal Legislative Agenda, 118th Congress

The City of Austin's Federal Legislative Program focuses on policies and legislation that impact the City of Austin.

  • The City of Austin opposes any legislative or regulatory actions that:
    • Erode the home rule authority of municipalities;
    • Constrain the ability of the City of Austin to allocate resources to areas of locally determined concern;
    • Preempt City of Austin authority in matters generally and traditionally the domain of local government.
       
  • The City of Austin supports policies and legislation that:
    • Provide an equitable distribution of federal funds;
    • Address the concerns and needs of large metropolitan center cities in areas of transportation, public safety, affordable housing, vibrant and healthy neighborhoods, energy and the environment;
    • Recognize the important role of strong central cities play in our nation's economy and as innovators in broad areas of public police;
    • Provide a solid safety net for economically vulnerable populations; and,
    • Recognize the challenge of climate change and the need to develop economically sustainable ways to address it.

Federal Items of Interest

Community Project Funding

During the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations cycle, Congressman Lloyd Doggett was successful in securing community project funding (formerly known as earmark funding) for three projects that will benefit City of Austin residents.

$1 million - Colony Park Sustainable Community Health & Wellness Center Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Infrastructure Project

Funding for the Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Infrastructure project will initiate the development of the Central Health Northeast Health & Wellness Center in Colony Park, which will serve current residents of Colony Park and serve as the catalyst to fully develop and complete the remainder of the Colony Park Sustainable Community. Currently, the project lacks the essential utility infrastructure needed to build and support the Health & Wellness Center. The City of Austin will use federal funding to develop the water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure needed to fulfill the City's responsibilities to provide the utilities on the parcel of land before it is conveyed to Central Health for its development of the Colony Park Health & Wellness Center.

The Center will provide health and wellness services in an underserved community. It will also include facilities for Austin Public Library & Austin Public Health, improving opportunity, affordability, and public services in Colony Park. The facility will provide public health services as well as quality and affordable childcare adjacent to an elementary school, public library, and recreation center in a low- and moderate-income neighborhoods with majority African American and Latino residents. The proposed facility will be the first of its kind in Northeast Austin located east of US Highway 183.

The Colony Park Sustainable Community is a City and community led effort to develop 208 acres of City-owned property in Northeast Austin, Texas. When complete, the project on Loyola Lane between Johnny Morris Road and Decker Lane is expected to feature a mix of housing types, including affordable housing; a grocery store; retail, and office space; a public transit center; and Loyola Town Center where the Health and Wellness Center is planned for development.

$1 million – MoKan Trail

The secured federal funds will complete a one-mile segment of the MoKan Trail along former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad right-of-way between Plaza Saltillo and Springdale Road in a rapidly growing portion of East Austin.

The MoKan Trail will increase pedestrian and bicyclist mobility and safety, providing local and regional access to transit, jobs, education, and services. Adding this trail segment will provide a safe connection for pedestrians and bicyclists to connect from downtown Austin to downtown Manor and destinations along the way. This trail will also connect to proposed transit stations, providing people more mobility options. In addition to the regional connections to jobs, education, and services it will provide, the one-mile segment of the trail constructed with the requested funds will directly serve two rail transit stations, several neighborhood commercial nodes, numerous schools, and the immediate neighborhood's only full-service grocery store.

The trail is a priority as it will improve mobility and help to reach the Austin Strategic Mobility plan goal of achieving half of all commute trips by transit, walking, teleworking, carpooling, or bicycling by 2039. Included in the City of Austin 2014 Urban Trails Plan, the trail is a key part of the regional trail network, with direct connections to the Red Line Trail and the Southern Walnut Creek Trail.

$1.5 million – IH-35 Cap & Stitch Study

The current design of IH-35 through central Austin creates a major physical and psychological barrier, hindering mobility and reinforcing past and current patterns of segregation. TXDOT's redesign and reconstruction of IH-35 through central Austin presents Austin with a generational opportunity to address past injustices that purposefully divided the community along racial and economic lines.

To seize on this opportunity, the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) in conjunction with the Urban Land Institute, local elected officials, and civic leaders conducted a study of the proposed IH-35 project and the potential for creating lids and enhanced crossings (Caps & Stitches) across the depressed highway lanes going through downtown. The Cap & Stitch proposal leverages the planned reconstruction of IH-35 to begin the process of addressing those past injustices and better connect East Austin with Downtown.

The City of Austin and DAA, in conjunction with a diverse community stakeholder group, the Scoping Working Group, have continued the work of assessing feasibility of the cap and stitch improvements, building upon the initial study done in spring 2020. The City of Austin has committed $750,000 in a preliminary engineering and feasibility study to further verify location of the caps and stitches as well as required infrastructure to support potential surface improvements. DAA has also been supporting a public outreach and engagement initiative called "Our Future 35," including hiring Life Anew Restorative Justice to facilitate community dialogue around racial equity outcomes for IH-35. Over the past 2 years, the DAA has invested over $400,000 – first to produce the ULI panel, and then to continue the feasibility analysis, community conversations and momentum.

The City and DAA are planning to launch the next phase of refined design and development of surface improvements and amenities, as well as an impacts and opportunities analysis focused on economic development, equity, land use and planning considerations, impacts on vulnerable communities and several other considerations that need to be taken into account as cap and stitch improvements are contemplated. This next phase study will also include a robust public outreach and engagement process. The study will also include financial analysis to better determine cost of construction and potential funding sources for this endeavor.

This secured funding will go directly to fund this next phase analysis.

Advocacy for Federal Grant and Formula Funding 

The Intergovernmental Relations Office advocates for various types of formula and grant funding that assist our City in providing services to our residents. Below is a general list of the funding that the City of Austin advocates for at the federal level.

HOME Grants

HOME Grants, administered through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, provide grants to states and local governments to implement local housing strategies designed to increase homeownership and affordable housing opportunities for low and very low-income Americans.

In general, HOME funding can be used for tenant-based rental assistance; housing rehabilitation; assistance to homebuyers; and new construction of housing. HOME funds must serve low- and very low-income families.

HOME Funds are allocated using a formula designed to reflect relative housing need. Forty percent of the funds are allocated to states, and 60 percent is allocated to units of local governments.

Community Development Block Grants

The City of Austin strongly supports the robust funding of the CDBG program to address the growing needs of Austin’s low-income community

The CDBG program supports community development activities to build stronger and more resilient communities. The program addresses needs such as infrastructure, economic development projects, public facilities installation, community centers, housing rehabilitation, public services, microenterprise assistance, code enforcement, homeowner assistance and more.

In Fiscal Year 2020, Austin received approximately $8 million in CDBG funding.  

Also in 2020, Congress provided $5 billion in the CARES Act for the CDBG Program to states, to which the City of Austin was a recipient.

Community Services Block Grants

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) provide federal funds to states, territories, and tribes for distribution to local agencies to support a wide range of community-based activities to reduce poverty. In Austin’s case, CSBG funding is passed down through the State of Texas.

Eligible activities for CSBG funding include activities to help families and individuals achieve self-sufficiency, find and retain meaningful employment, attain an adequate education, make better use of available income, obtain adequate housing, and achieve greater participation in community affairs.

Austin Public Health administers CSBG in Travis County, acting as the local community action agency to administer this vital safety net program, such as Austin Public Health’s Neighborhood Centers Program.

Capital Investment Grants Program

The discretionary Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program provides funding for fixed guideway investments such as new and expanded rapid rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit, and ferries, as well as corridor-based bus rapid transit investments that emulate the features of rail.

As Austin moves forward with Project Connect, Capital Investment Grants will likely be a source of potential funding for the project.

Emergency Solutions Grant Program

The ESG program is a formula grant program that focuses on the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness and addressing their needs for emergency or transitional shelters, as well as assisting them to quickly regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness.

The ESG Program provides funding to:

  • Engage homeless individuals and families living on the street;
  • Improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families;
  • Help operate these shelters;
  • Provide essential services to shelter residents;
  • Rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families; and
  • Prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

In November 2021, Congress passed a historic bipartisan infrastructure funding package, HR 3684, which includes a five-year authorization of federal highway and transit programs, as well as over $550 billion in new spending on a wide array of infrastructure – ranging from road and bridge repair, water, sewer and electrical enhancements, broadband, and more.

The new spending in the bill includes the following:

  • $110 billion for roads and bridges
  • $73 billion for electric grid and power infrastructure
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $65 billion for broadband investments
  • $55 billion for water systems and infrastructure
  • $50 billion for Western water storage
  • $39 billion for public transit
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $21 billion for environmental remediation projects
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways
  • $15 billion for electric vehicles
  • $11 billion for road safety

Fore more information, please see the Federal Highway Administration's webpage dedicated to the law. IGRO is monitoring all new grant opportunities as a result of this new law. 

Aviation 

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is one of the nation's fastest growing airports and attracts travelers from all across the world. The City of Austin supports federal aviation programs that maintains a guaranteed funding mechanism that ensures that all Airport and Airways Trust fund revenues are spent on aviation programs, maximizing the flexibility of the Airport Improvement Program, and provides local governments and airport authorities with support and necessary resources to provide for a safe and efficient aviation system. 

AUS is currently undergoing an Airport Expansion Program called the Airport Expansion and Development Program (AEDP). The AEDP will increase capacity at AUS using a strategic approach, including optimizing the Barbara Jordan Terminal and enabling our future expansion with utility and airfield infrastructure. The Intergovernmental Relations Office is focused on supporting the AEDP through advocacy at the Federal level. 

The AEDP will include: 

  • Optimization of the Barbara Jordan Terminal Enabling airfield and utility work to include building a new Central Utility Plant,
  • Electrical substation and removing existing structures to prepare for construction activities
  • Preparing for a Midfield Concourse with 10+ new gates and taxiways

You can find more information about the AEDP here

Federal Regulations

Below you will find a list of all federal regulations in which the City of Austin has provided comment.

Other Communications

Below you will find a list of all other federal communications (letters, testimony, etc.) regarding support for items in the Federal Legislative Agenda.