Austin leaders begin work on urban rail project


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist DENNIS THOMAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 16 at 5:45 PM

AUSTIN -- There is one thing nearly all Austinites agree needs to be fixed -- traffic congestion.

"Traffic is bad, and it's getting worse, and it has been ignored for several decades," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. 

That stops now. While there's no quick fix, or total fix for that matter, to Austin's traffic woes, city and regional leaders formed Project Connect to come up with a solution.

"The car is going to continue to be the dominate means of transportation here in the area, but there are going to be options available through the various options Project Connect instills," said Project Connect Urban Rail Project Leader Kyle Keahey. 

Those options are bus and commuter rail from Capital Metro, Lone Star Rail, the state's project to build rail from Georgetown to San Antonio and urban rail in Austin.

Friday Project Connect members met to start developing a specific route for the first phase of the project -- the central corridor in downtown Austin. Leaders describe it as "the final mile" that will tie the entire regional system together.

"The only criteria that I have right now is that we tie together the three dense population nodes of downtown, and that's the University of Texas, the Capitol complex and downtown Austin," Leffingwell said. 

By 2014, the group plans to have a specific route laid out and will ask voters to approve a $200-$300 million bond package to pay for half of the project. Officials say the other half would be funded by the federal government.

If all goes as planned, the urban rail would be up and running between 2020 and 2022.

However, there is one other major thing Project Connect members say they need to make the solution a reality -- public input. The group has scheduled several open houses and webinars next month:

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m., Austin Community College South Austin Campus, 1820 W Stassney Lane, Austin, TX
  • Thursday, September 26, 2013, 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m, St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 E 8th Street, Austin, TX
  • Thursday, September 26, 2013, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m., Givens Recreational Center, 3811 E 12th Street, Austin, TX
  • Friday, September 27, 2013, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m., Webinar,
  • Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m., Norris Conference Center, 2525 W Anderson Lane, Austin, TX, Red Oak Ballroom

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