Austin City Council and CapMetro, the transport agency, have approved the USD 7 billion investment for the Project Connect plan which includes the construction of a light rail system.
The investment will require a USD 3.85 billion in local funding, with the agency seeking federal funding for the remaining 45% of the project costs. This scenario creates opportunities to leverage future funding at a federal, state and local level as well as through public-private partnerships. In August, the Capital Metro board will consider a resolution for the plan funding commitment. For the FY2021 fiscal year, the agency has planned to invest USD 73 million in contributions to Project Connect development.
“These challenging times require us to be flexible, remain thoughtful and continue to look for bold solutions to create the transport system needed for our fast-growing region. This is a truly transformational plan that will ease traffic and better connect everyone in our community to jobs, education and health care,” Capital Metro Board chairman Wade Cooper said.
The Project Connect includes the construction of the Orange, Blue, Green and Gold LRT lines. The Orange Line would provide the connection between North Lamar Transit Center and Stassney Lane with enhanced MetroRapid service connecting north to Tech Ridge and south to Slaughter Lane.
The Blue Line will link the airport with Austin downtown and then will have a common section with the Orange Line. The Gold Line would begin as MetroRapid, with the intent to convert to light rail services in the future, while the Green Line would create an additional commuter rail service to connect the downtown to Colony Park, with potential extension to Manor and Elgin.
The investment scenario includes 3 new, faster MetroRapid lines with priority on Manor Road, Pleasant Valley and Menchaca Road and 15 neighborhood zones. There will also be three new MetroExpress routes with 10 additional park & rides, including transit centers and MetroBike integration.
The scenario plans for an underground tunnel that separates light rail from street traffic and includes the procurement of electric zero-emissions fleet.
This month, the Capital Metro board and the city of Austin will take a formal action to form an independent implementation board called the Austin Transit Partnership for the implementation of the transit development strategy. The next step would be a decision by the city council to put Project Connect on the ballot in November.