City partnering with real estate firm to look at possible economic impacts of transportation improvements

Forrest Milburn

An Austin real estate research firm will look at the economic impact of improving certain transportation areas of the city, including the road and sidewalks along Guadalupe Street, that require services in order to become more accessible to drivers, bikers and pedestrians.

On March 3, City Council members voted to approve a contract with Capitol Market Research to study the fiscal effects of transportation corridor improvement areas. The firm will provide analysis looking 20 years out that will allow the city to prioritize the areas to work on.

“You have to try to make predictions about what will happen with economic growth based on what you are doing,” council member Don Zimmerman said. “There is speculation involved, and it is complicated.”

The Transportation Department established several improvement areas around Austin after voters approved the 2012 bond program.

When the department set up the improvement areas, it aimed to plan for changes over time, which included mobility improvements as the city geared to tackle mass transportation concerns in the near future. Improvements also include widening bike lanes and increased road quality.

City staff said the firm will use data to project the rising real estate costs in
improvement areas. The stretch of Guadalupe Street from Martin Luther King Jr. to 29th Street is one these areas. Others include stretches of land along Burnet Road, North Lamar, Airport Boulevard, East Riverside Drive, East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South Lamar.

“We don’t have the expertise on staff and we contract out for this service, rather than hire a staff person [and] get them up to speed on on this type of work,” chief financial officer Elaine Hart said. “We review the work.” 

City staff said the firm does not make any recommendations to the city; they only present data and work that is to be reviewed.