Project Connect Unveils Urban Rail Details

May 7, 2014 by Kate Harrington

If Austin voters approve funding for a proposed regional transit system this fall, it will stretch 9.5 miles from the Highland Mall ACC Campus to Riverside Drive, run as a rail system, and cost about $1.38 billion.

Those are some of the details the Project Connect team revealed on May 2 as it presented its recommendations to the Central Corridor Advisory Group (CCAG).

The recommended route will include 16 stations, and will carry an estimated daily ridership of 16,000 to 20,000, said Kyle Keahey, the program lead with Project Connect. The group selected rail over a Bus Rapid Transit system because of rail’s greater flexibility and capacity.

The urban rail line would provide transit for “the current and future residents along East Riverside Drive as well as the Highland redevelopment area to major destinations such as Austin’s growing downtown area, the State Capitol Complex, Lady Bird Lake, the Convention Center, the University of Texas campus, public venues and stadium, the future Dell Medical School and Hancock Center,” a Project Connect press release says.



The estimated price tag, which is in 2020 dollars, includes $175 million for a multimodal bridge that would cross Lady Bird Lake and include bike and pedestrian pathways, a possible $220 million tunnel under Capital Metro’s Red Line near the Hancock Center, and $43 million for nine rail cars.

Keahey told the CCAG that the decision to cross the lake with a bridge instead of a tunnel, another proposal planners had discussed, made it more likely to gain funding help from the Federal Transit Administration.

It’s not clear yet how much voters will be asked to help fund. Still to come at the next CCAG meeting, scheduled for May 16, are Project Connect’s recommendations on funding and phasing options, as well as what agencies would oversee the system. CCAG will vote on the recommended route on June 13, and City Council has until mid-August to call a bond for the November 4 election, to ask voters to approve funding.

Would you support a $1.38 billion system as proposed by the Project Connect team? Leave your comments below!

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.