Austin transit proposal could include new rail lines, $9.8 billion price tag

RELATED TOPICS: TRANSIT | LIGHT RAIL | TEXAS
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An Austin MetroRail train awaits passengers at the Howard station in 2016. Austin could expand its transit system to include two light rail lines.
TRAINS: David Lassen

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin city officials have begun the process of determining how to pay for a transit expansion that could cost as much as $9.8 billion if it includes new rail lines.

The Austin American-Statesman reports the “Project Connect” proposal includes two light rail lines, the Blue Line running from downtown to Austin-Bergstrom international Airport, about 9 miles southeast of the city, and the Orange Line, on another on a north-south axis using North Lamar Boulevard, Guadalupe Street, and South Congress Avenue.

Transit agency Capital Metro estimates the Orange Line could carry 45,000 to 74,000 passengers daily by 2040; estimates for the Blue Line are 30,000 to 52,000.

A bond issue to fund the proposal is likely to go to voters in 2020, and Austin City Council members on Wednesday began discussing options that would shape the price of the project, such as building bus rapid transit lines rather than light rail, the Stateman reports. Bus rapid transit would have lower costs but also lower capacity.

The proposal is a slimmed-down version of a plan first presented in 2018 [See "New rail lines part of ambitious Austin transit plan," Trains News Wire, March 27, 2018]. That version included three rail lines. Austin's only current rail transit is a 32-mile, nine-station commuter line using diesel multiple unit trainsets.

Capital Metro projects federal funds could cover about 40% of the project, leaving a range of cost estimates of $1.9 to $5.9 million to be funded by local voters. Voters turned down lower-priced rail proposals in 2014 and 2000.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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