Project Connect offers up phasing plan for new urban rail line

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Officials with Project Connect presented a pair of phasing options for urban rail to go along with their previously proposed 9.5-mile project.

The original plan called for a rail line stretching from Highland Mall to East Riverside and Grove Boulevard in Southeast Austin at a cost of $1.38 billion.

Phasing plans offer a 7.3-mile rail line from Grove to the Hancock Center costing $990 million. The shortest option is an $820 million plan that would lay 5.7 miles of track from Grove to Dean Keeton Street on the north side of the University of Texas campus.

(Project Connect)
(Project Connect)

City council will now determine which option to place on the ballot for a November bond election.

Some 100,000 people currently live or work along that route with more coming, particularly for the new medical complex.

“To be able to move those people coming to that community is really a marriage of two perfect projects,” said Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson.

It is also projected that the rail line would generate $45 million annually in new property and sales tax revenue from new public investment along the area.

Austin voters will be asked to pony up half the total cost of any project. The rest of the money is expected to come from federal funding.

Project Connect officials anticipate the project will be a governed jointly between the City of Austin and Capital Metro.

Operation and maintenance costs are expected to cost about $22.5 million annually for the 9.5-mile project, officials said. They added the costs would largely be paid for with existing Capital Metro sales tax and passenger fares.

Opponents of the planned urban rail line believe it’s better suited on Lamar Boulevard and Guadalupe Street, and Austin voters have turned down rail plans before.

“It was 14 years since our last rail election,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell warned. “I would expect another decade delay is what you could expect if voters don’t approve it this time.”

Residents are encouraged to post comments and questions at SpeakUpAustin.org.

The recommendation will move forward according to this anticipated timeline:

  • May 20:  Presentation to the Capital Metro Board of Directors during a work session.
  • May 22: Presentation to the Austin City Council during the regular council meeting.
  • June 13: CCAG meeting to consider the staff recommendation and develop an advisory group recommendation to forward along to the Austin City Council and Capital Metro Board of Directors.
  • June 17: Final recommendations will be presented to the Capital Metro Board of Directors and the Austin City Council during a special joint meeting of the two bodies – a vote on the project is not anticipated during this meeting.
blog comments powered by Disqus