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City finalizes Phase 1 of Project Connect light rail plan

The plan consists of almost 10 miles of new light rail across 15 stations.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Austin City Council, CapMetro's Board of Directors and the Austin Transit Partnership's (ATP) Board of Directors met to finalize and approve the first phase of Project Connect’s light rail program.

“We’re thrilled that we have been approved to move forward with this project and continue with transforming the mobility landscape in Austin,” said Greg Canally, executive director of the ATP. “ATP has been community-minded throughout this entire process, and we thank both City of Austin and CapMetro for approving the recommendation and in doing so, validating the feedback from our community. This is a big win for Austin, and now that we have been given the green light, we are jumping into the important work to make this vision a reality.”

The meeting comes after the ATP revealed its recommended Phase 1 light rail investment last month, with service running from 38th Street to Oltorf Street to Yellow Jacket Lane.

The plan consists of almost 10 miles of new light rail across 15 stations. The ATP leaders estimate it will serve 28,500 daily riders by 2040, and the anticipated capital cost of the project ranges between $4.5 to $4.8 billion.

Credit: Austin Transit Partnership
Graphic courtesy of the Austin Transit Partnership.

"This option actually serves the greatest share of Black, indigenous and people of color, as well as the most affordable housing units," Lindsay Wood, executive vice president of engineering and construction for the ATP, said last month.

Voters approved to build and fund the operations of the light rail three years ago as part of Project Connect. The ATP will also use federal grants.

"We don't need any additional revenue," Canally said.

The ATP estimates the light rail will serve more than 20,000 affordable housing units and bring access to more than 136,000 current jobs and more than 200,000 future jobs.

"Connecting to areas that have been underinvested in for really decades, that was really a driving force from us. We've touched base with more than 8000 Austinites," Canally said.

Canally is referring to the 90 public meetings that took place to get the community talking about Austin light rail. In March, an open house was held at the Austin Central Library, where the ATP showed five different options for the light rail.

Canally said the ATP team took community feedback and combined it with planning and engineering expertise.

“This is a wonderful day for our community, and we at Transit Forward are so thankful to our political leadership, staff and all of you in the community who participated in this process – giving your feedback, talking to you friends and neighbors, speaking at public meetings and supporting Project Connect as a way to bring our community together,” Transit Forward Executive Director Bill McCamley said.

Now that the plan is adopted, the ATP can move forward on the planning, engineering and environmental work.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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