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Austin's new urban rail route finds a city divided

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Downtown Austin skyline in the evening across from Lady Bird Lake
Austin's urban rail has its fair share of supporters  — and detractors. Photo by Kumar Appaiah with Flickr

KVUE — On Wednesday, city and transportation leaders showed off the 9.5-mile route for the proposed Urban Rail Bond Package on the Austin City Council's November ballot.

The rail line would feature 16 stops and travel at an average of 22 miles per hour. It would begin in Southeast Austin, near the Ruiz Library on Grove Boulevard and East Riverside Drive. The rail line would travel west along Riverside Drive and head north on Trinity Street, Red River Street and Airport Boulevard. It would end at the Austin Community College Highland Campus.

"This is when people really need to take a look at the future of what we want," said Kyle Keahey, the city's lead on the Urban Rail Project.

Many support an urban rail system, but the route has the city divided. "I am 100 percent confident," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "We went through [a] years-long data-driven process to find the best possible route."

"I think Austin voters need to decide whether it's really worth putting that staggering amount of money, a billion-dollar bond issue, to pay for a corridor, essentially, where nothing exists and where there are hopes and dreams by these planners, " said Lyndon Henry, a member of Light Rail Now and the Our Rail Political Action Committee.

Some students at the University of Texas at Austin say the proposed route that goes up San Jacinto Boulevard on campus would serve them best. "I think it would be better actually on campus than Guadalupe [Street]," said Travis Peeler.

"I think it would be better if it was on [San Jacinto Boulevard] just because Guadalupe is already pretty crowded, and you don't need to crowd it any more than it already is," said UT junior Rachel Hattemer.

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To read the full story and to see the video, please visit KVUE.

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