Austin is getting closer to building a 9.5-mile urban rail as city officials continue discussions about the proposed route, cost and other factors.
On June 26, Austin City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution endorsing the plan, which the Project Connect Central Corridor Advisory Group, a group including members from City Council and the Capital Metro Board of Directors, endorsed in a 13-1 vote Friday.
The recommended route includes 16 stations, a bridge over Lady Bird Lake and a tunnel near Hancock Center. Three of the proposed stops are on campus, including one at the Dell Medical School — which is under construction and scheduled to be finished in 2016. The proposed stations would be positioned at approximate half-mile increments, and the train’s frequency would vary between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on the time of day.
Project Connect estimates 18,000 people will ride the rail daily by 2030.
While the proposed route places urban rail along Trinity Street, San Jacinto Boulevard and Red River Street, some citizens and students have advocated the rail route run on Guadalupe Street and Lamar Boulevard. At a joint meeting between City Council and the Cap Metro board on Tuesday, Mayor Lee Leffingwell said this would decrease the plan’s competitiveness for Federal Transit Administration funding. Because the administration recently contributed $38 million to the MetroRapid system along these streets, Leffingwell said it would be unlikely to fund another transit system in the same area.
The proposal is part of Project Connect, a collaboration between the city and Central Texas transportation and planning entities with the goal to improve high-capacity transportation in Central Texas. Project Connect expects to receive federal funding for half of the proposed $1.38 billion cost of the proposal. Project Connect estimates annual operation and maintenance costs will be $22 million, beginning in 2022.