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City Councilmembers Talk $175 Million Road Bond Package On Voters' Ballots

Broadway - Brick Road
Kaysie Ellingson/Texas Tech Public Media
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If approved, nearly $42 million of the $175 million would go toward improvements on Broadway.

This election, Lubbockites will vote on a $175 million bond package to improve roads throughout the city.

Early voting started this week and continues through Oct. 29 for the Nov. 2 election. On the ballot for Lubbock voters is a $175 million bond package for road improvements. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Massengale and District 3 City Councilman Jeff Griffith recently visited the Texas Tech Public Media studio to talk more about the projects the city council hopes the bond will fund.

To find a sample ballot or a polling location near you, visit votelubbock.org.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Let’s start by just breaking down the bond package. What does it cover?

Steve Massengale: It covers several streets that either need to be built or rebuilt across our community. Keep in mind, we haven't done this since ‘09. We haven't had a bond package since ‘09. And as a reminder, the streets that were affected in that package were Quaker from 98th to 144th We know what that looks like today. That package included 114th Street as we know it today. And we know how much traffic's on that street today and how much the need is to rebuild it. And it also included 34th Street, the improvements that we saw on 34th Street.

Councilman Griffith, you were part of the committee that worked on this package to bring it to voters. What did you see while you were out driving around and doing your research?

Jeff Griffith: Our committee actually drove many, many miles of Lubbock streets. This is based upon arterials. As we analyzed, as Mayor Pro Tem Massengale brought up, the need for rebuilding is important on in some of our corridors at the same time, expansion like on 114th. The real deal here is that the needs are, we found very interestingly, Sarah, all across the city. It wasn't just inside the loop or just to the west side or east side. It was throughout our city.

Two big things: public safety and connectivity. Some of these are connecting segments that have been done with each other. And some segments are the fact of widening, where we've had two lanes, we need three or five. Public safety's a big, big issue for us as the city continues to grow.

What roads would this bond improve? 

Griffith: This consists of Erskine, from Avenue S to I-27, 34th Street from Avenue Q to I-27, 82nd Street from I-27 to MLK, back to 34th Street from I-27 to Avenue A, 34th Street also from Quaker to Slide Road, 114th Street from Indiana to the city limits that’s east of University Avenue, 114th Street from Frankford Avenue to Slide Road, Milwaukee, the north city limits down to Fourth Street, MLK on the southeast side from South Loop 289 to 82nd Street, University Avenue from 98th to 114th Street, 98th Street from Upland Avenue to Alcove Avenue that’s been basically unpaved, and also Upland from Fourth Street to 19th Street on the northwest side.

Nearly $42 million of this bond package is planned to go toward Broadway for improvements on that road. That’s a big chunk of the total. Why does that road need so much work?

Massengale: Some parts of that road are 100 years old. And there's quite a bit of activity in our downtown area right now. That's the connecting corridor between one of our largest recreation areas and Texas Tech. I mean, Texas Tech, the largest economic engine in our community. And so if in ‘09 34th Street was important for transportation and those businesses then certainly Broadway is. So it is a big chunk. But keep in mind, some parts of Broadway we haven't invested in in over 100 years.

If this passes, it would come with a property tax increase. What does that mean for citizens? 

Massengale: So the maximum tax impact would be two cents. How that translates to the average homeowner, which the average price of a home in Lubbock is about $150,000, that would have a $9 a year impact on their tax bill. It's about 70 cents a month for five consecutive years. Now, that's if you got to the maximum tax rate. Remember we're gonna do this over five issuances. So the first year you wouldn't even get close to the two pennies, but maximum impact if we get those two cents.

Now this bond package made it to a ballot after a lot of discussion down at Citizens Tower. Why did the council choose to put this to a public vote rather than just allocate the funds yourselves?

Massengale: First, keep in mind that we're working within the constraints of the new legislative law for property tax reform. And so we have to make sure that we're operating our budget within that constraint every year.

Aside from that, I think, my position has always been that on any large project, the voters should participate. I do think this is an appropriate project to get input and let the voters decide - $175 million is a lot of money. You get a lot of bang for your buck for two cents. In ‘09, the cost of the bond was a little over two cents, and we got $50 million worth of projects. So we're beneficiaries of our growth. We're so fortunate that we have healthy growth here in Lubbock.

Now, what would you say to someone who opposes the bond package? 

Griffith: The major thing that we've mentioned is public safety. As the city grows, and as we have more traffic, everybody that drives our streets every day sees what's happening with congestion, with street deterioration on some of these very needed streets.

A lot of these widenings are very crucial. You know, we can talk all day and beat our chests, about how great it is that out of 100 largest cities in the United States, we have the very shortest commute time. We get spoiled to that. But this is really about public safety, not just commute time. It's nice that we have that we don't spend as much time in our vehicles. But this truly is public safety on a lot of these.

I don't think I don't see how anybody can disagree with that, considering right now we’re able to do this much work at historically low interest rates. So the City of Lubbock, with our great credit rating is able to borrow the money at super, super low interest rates. When I say historic, I mean, many many decades. We've never borrowed money like this before. The ability to do this much work for our citizens is wonderful.

Our subcommittee analyzed this at great length, and as our debt continues to roll off almost at $100 million a year, this really doesn't have a significant tax increase the way some people might perceive.

This interview has been edited for time and clarity. 

Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at saselfwa@ttu.edu. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.

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