CapMetro expansion, adding new rail lines could reach $9.8 billion

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MetroRail train_373074

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Capital Metro’s plans to add new rail lines and expand other services in Austin could cost as much as $9.8 billion, creating a north-south rail service along Lamar Boulevard and rail service to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

CapMetro officials will meet with Austin City Council today to break down the latest Project Connect figures.

CapMetro hopes to secure federal funding for approximately 40% of the cost. City Hall would have to find the rest, approximately $5.9 billion.

“The point that we’re out right now is trying to lay out what that potential is, what the benefits are, what the ridership is, what the cost is?” Dave Couch said. “It’s going to be a decision that needs to be reached in terms of how much of it do you do at one time, this is a multi-year, this is a generational change that will occur you can’t build this in a matter of a few years.”

If fully funded, Project Connect would add two new transit lines — the Blue Line and the Orange Line. The Blue Line would cost around $3 billion and would connect downtown to ABIA. The Orange Line provides north-south connections along Lamar Boulevard and could cost $5 billion.

Another, slightly cheaper option would provide MetroRapid buses along those routes instead. That option would cost $7.2 billion.

The Project Connect plan would continue CapMetro’s use of commuter rail lines, which is what it uses on the Red Line to provide service to Leander. This is technically different than light rail both in use and oversight. Federal rules require commuter rail to have a Positive Train Control system, which is expensive. Freight trains also make use of commuter rail, which would allow CapMetro to use existing train tracks.

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