Transforming Austin Transportation: Project Connect Rail Plan Gets the Green Light

Austin transit, Project Connect, light rail, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, City Council, Austin Transit Partnership, mass transit, Austin real estate

Smart Austin Concierge

June 2, 2023

The Austin City Council and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority board have given their stamp of approval to the revised plans for Project Connect’s initial light rail lines. This marks a notable turning point in the growth of Austin’s transit infrastructure. With extensive planning and community feedback, the first phase of Project Connect’s blueprint is now firmly established.

Following the Austin Transit Partnership board’s approval on May 24, the City Council and CapMetro votes in early June have set the stage for the project to enter its design phase. Subsequent federal reviews and years of construction will follow. Mayor Kirk Watson expressed his enthusiasm, stating that the approval of the Austin light rail implementation plan is a significant stride towards initiating construction.

The endorsed version of Project Connect rail is a streamlined adaptation of the original blueprint introduced in 2020. Spanning approximately 10 miles at street level and comprised of 15 stations between 38th Street to the north, Yellow Jacket Lane to the east, and Oltorf Street to the south. Funding for the initial investment, estimated at between $4.5 billion to $4.8 billion, will be obtained from local tax collections and anticipated federal funding. If additional funds are procured, rail lines may extend further north to Crestview or east to the airport, with even more expansions in future phases.

Austin leaders have expressed widespread support for the plan, highlighting the possible impact on local residents’ quality of life and workers along the route. Council Member Zo Qadri stressed the advantages of mass transit, asserting that it will enhance mobility, accessibility, safety, affordability, and contribute to reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Moreover, it will encourage equitable transit-oriented development, enabling more people of all income brackets to reside in the heart of Austin.

As attention turns to light rail, West Austin Council Member Alison Alter also underscored the significance of considering how Project Connect could alter transportation for areas not served by dedicated rail lines. She shared her enthusiasm for ongoing discussions about the bus system, bus rapid transit, park-and-rides, and the flyer down FM 2222 that will help re-envision the broader transit infrastructure.

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