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Iconic Austin burger joint could be forced to move due to Project Connect

A petition has been started in an effort to get the plans changed and the proposed Orange Line rerouted.

AUSTIN, Texas — A 96-year-old Austin burger joint could shut down or be forced to move due to Austin's Project Connect.

According to a report by KVUE's news partners at the Austin-American Statesman, the current design for the massive transit project has the Orange Line of the new light rail system running straight through the land Dirty Martin's sits on. That's on Guadalupe Street near the University of Texas campus. 

Owner Mark Nemir has been selling burgers at Dirty Martin's for the past 33 years after he bought back his grandfather's business from an owner who ran it for 35 years before him. He found out about the proposed plans in October. He's been living in uncertainty since then. 

“From a business standpoint, you can't make any plans,” Nemir told the Statesman. “And you always have to have a plan. You have to have a direction where you're traveling. … You have to have goals, have projections, and it just kind of shuts you down because, you know, it's just this big unknown thing.”

Project Connect was approved by Austin voters in November 2020 with initial plans to fund a $7.1 billion transit system that includes a light rail system, tunnels, rapid bus routes and more. Just earlier this month, a new report indicated the light rail and tunnel would cost nearly double the initial amount.

A petition has been started in an effort to get the Project Connect plans changed and reroute the section of the Orange Line set to run through Dirty Martin's property. At the time of publication, the petition had more than 12,600 signatures. 

"We at Dirty Martin's Place would like to remain open and we need your support. Our hope is that Capital Metro reroutes this section of the Orange Line to save an Austin institution," the petition read in part.

The Austin Transit Partnership, which is in charge of implementing the transit project, said it was engaging with the community, including business owners and tenants, to develop the project.

"The Project Connect program was taken through a community engagement process to identify the locally preferred alternative, before being adopted by the CapMetro Board and Austin City Council and taken to Austin voters who approved a historic investment in transit," a statement from the ATP read. "CapMetro is working with partners at the Austin Transit Partnership and City of Austin to implement the Project Connect program, as we committed to voters we would. We are working through the design process, which involves extensive community engagement, including with property owners and tenants along the routes. All three partners value the community’s feedback, and we will continue to use that feedback to shape the transit system."

Read the full report by the Statesman here.

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