Discussing Austin's proposed urban rail route
KVUE — Keeping commuters moving in this growing city is a problem and priority. The next recommended investment for Austin is urban rail. If all goes as planned, a route from as far north as Highland ACC, along Airport, south to Red River, over to Trinity then across the Lady Bird Lake, could be on track by 2021.
It takes time. The deputy lead on Project Connect, Scott Gross, says you've got to start somewhere. "So far our preliminary estimates show that we could have an average daily ridership from 16,000 to 20,000 passengers per day. So those are very good numbers," said Gross.
One of the 16 stops along the 9.5-mile alignment would be on Trinity at the Convention Center, where riders could then connect to the current Red Line.
Opposition to the plan says it doesn't serve the current congested areas. Lyndon Henry says he is a urban rail supporter, just not of this proposal. "It's not putting rail in the right place in the right corridor,” said Henry.
He says the bridge over Lady Bird Lake, and a possible tunnel around Hancock Shopping Center, are too expensive. He urges support for a route along Lamar and Guadalupe instead.
"It’s the heaviest corridor, has the heaviest travel, the highest density in the city. And it is completely absurd to put your bus system there and put your rail system in this extremely weak corridor,” said Henry.
"We think it’s a very promising corridor; the economic development potential looks exceptional for that corridor,” said Gross. Gross says the project would bring in an estimated $30 million a year for property and sales tax revenue to the city alone.
Up next, Project Connect will discuss where to start on the proposed route. The entire project, from Highland to Riverside at Grove, will cost $1.38 billion. It may be done in segments and the hope is that federal money will pay for half.
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