No more messing around: it’s time to get serious about traffic.
That’s the message from Project Connect after their failed 2014 bond package to approve $1 billion for light rail in Austin.
Now, the group comprised of transportation agencies in Central Texas is trying a new approach to find real solutions to fix mobility problems.
First, that meant looking at every idea for mass transit that had been researched in the past 20 years. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Todd Hemingson with Capital Metro. "Let's learn from what we've already done and then see how the pieces fit together."
Now, Project Connect is in Phase 2 of the 3 phase plan. That involves finding real solutions for real problems.
Through public input, they have narrowed down which roads are the biggest problem.
Next, they need to figure out which modes of transportation will best fit each corridor.
That may not necessarily mean light rail. It may be a combination of light rail for one stretch of road, modern streetcars for another, and dedicated bus rapid transit lanes.
For example, Hemingson says they need to fix congestion along Guadalupe and Lamar, and that will likely happen with “light rail. Transit fans will say we've been trying to do that for 30 plus years."
But in the other parts of the city, the solution may be more of a dedicated bus lane.
To make this plan work, unlike the first one in 2014, Project Connect is asking for much more public input. So far, they’ve spoken to more than 2,000 people and received nearly 3,000 survey responses.
Phase 3, the final phase of the project will likely happen next summer and be finished by fall 2018. Phase 3 is to figure out how to implement these projects and how to pay for them.
According to Hemingson, paying for the project will be the largest hurdle. He says federal funding is not as generous as it was just a few years ago. It may also require another large bond package for voters to approve.
For an in-depth look at Project Connect and how to give your input, click here.