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ABIA Could Help Build Austin Urban Rail

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell claims he has nothing to hide. "Those who talk about secrecy quite frankly don't know what they're talking about," said Leffingwell.

Leffingwell is taking some flak for not disclosing months of discussions pertaining to the possibility of leasing Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to a private company.

"First of all things sponsored by council members cannot be discussed beforehand, that's state law," he added.

Leffingwell is right.  Texas law limits how many elected officials -- of the same governing body -- can be privy to an idea or plan before it brought to the entire city council for public debate.

Councilwoman Sheryl Cole feels the mayor could have disclosed his idea during a council workshop.  She's reluctant to comment before hearing all of the details.

"It is entirely too early.  I have not seen any propositions, plans that would support leasing airport to finance rail," said Cole.

Leffingwell believes leasing the city-owned airport could generate some $600 million.  As part of the leasing agreement, the city could spend that money to fund a 5.5-mile extension of the urban rail.  But Leffingwell admits it's a long shot.

"That didn't mean we're pursing it, we're taking a look at it," said Leffingwell.

Leffingwell tells KEYE TV he chose to include councilman Mike Martinez in the leasing discussions since it directly relates to public transportation.

"He's a logical choice because he's chair of Capital Metro," added Leffingwell.

And now that the little-known plan is out in the open, train travelers are starting to sound off.

"We need a way to get around that doesn't include gas and cars," said one rider.

By Alex BoyerABIA Could Help Build Austin Urban Rail


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