CapMetro: From tunnels to light rails, give us ideas to relieve traffic

Austin

The Austin Transportation Department and Capital Metro officially launched their campaign to ask for the public’s input on their long-term, regional mobility plans.

Capital Metro has been working on “Project Connect” since 2016. They’ve identified almost a dozen areas where they hope to either extend existing lines or add new lines to connect different parts of the Greater Austin region to downtown.

Austin’s Transportation Department is one year into a two-year process of evaluating needs for transportation improvements. ATD’s plan is called the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan.

Both agencies say it’s too early to tell exactly which areas will see improvements first and how much the projects will cost.

“None of these today is the actual plan,” said Annick Beaudet, assistant director of ATD, said. “We need the public to tell us what do they like? What do they don’t like?”

“I would say the first pitch in the ballgame,” Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke said. “That’s the analogy I’ve been using. It’s a multi-generational investment in the region.”

CapMetro did tell KXAN it anticipates analysis and preliminary engineering work to cost between $17.5 million and $22.5 million. The agency’s board plans on asking the Austin City Council to include up to $15 million in a bond package that will likely be up for a vote in November. 

For ATD, Beaudet said the department has so far spent $700,000 on planning. 

Austin City Council Member Pio Renteria said, “We need to study rail.” But he said once some of these projects actually come to life, they may need outside help to fund them. “We’ll never build a rail unless we know that we can acquire grants at the federal level for them to help us pay for it,” he said.

Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion said he wants practical solutions. “We need circulator routes where we have folks telling us, you know I don’t need to go across town, I need to go 8 blocks to the grocery store, and then I need to go by the pharmacy and then I need to get back home.”

He said in his precinct, he hears from seniors who say they need easier access to health care services. “A 15-minute ride in your car from Connelly Park, to ask an elderly person to get on the bus, take 3 transfers, taking an hour and a half, it’s not acceptable,” he said.

Travillion told KXAN as long as projects address health and safety issues, he would be a willing partner. 

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