Urban rail line could connect north, east Austin



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Posted on February 21, 2014 at 11:49 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 22 at 12:52 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin voters could be asked to approve an urban rail connecting north central Austin to East Austin.

There was little to nothing rushing about the rush hour Friday evening in downtown Austin.

"I've been in this traffic for about 30 minutes just to get a few blocks," one driver said.

The only creatures who didn't seem phased by the heavy traffic were the four-legged variety. It was apparently faster to travel through town on horseback than in a vehicle.

"It's really the way to get around. It's legal to do it," said Sam Olivio, who was riding through downtown on horseback.

For the past two years, city leaders say traffic congestion has been the number one complaint in Austin.

"They'll usually have big trucks out here, blocking the area. I figured, why would they do it in the middle of the day instead of at night?" said Ja'mien with Kleenkarr Custom.

On Friday at Austin City Hall, the first part of a plan to alleviate some of Austin's traffic headaches was unveiled.

"How do we deal with congestion? How do we get people form wehre they live, to where they play to where they work. One of the things with high capacity transit. It provides an alternative to being in your vehicle stuck in that traffic congestion," said Kyle Keahey, an HNTB engineer with Project Connect.

Getting people out of traffic congestion is the goal behind this map released Friday. Project Connect wants some sort of line running through the central Austin corridor. It would start at Highland Mall, making stops at the University of Texas, downtown, Lady Bird Lake and east Riverside Drive.

"East side to Highland Mall would be great, because most of your workers and stuff live in those areas because it's not as expensive to live there, you know," Olivio said.

The question now is whether trains or buses be the primary mode of transportation along this new line and what the cost to taxpayers will be. Those are questions experts will try to answer over the next several months.

"If you think 20 or 30 years out, or 50 years out I think trains are inevitable. We're going to be able to move so many more people, so much faster, so much more reliable with a train system than we could with a bus system. I think we really need to start talking about trains right now," said city councilman Bill Spelman.


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