AUSTIN (KXAN) — After debuting five light rail design options last month, Austin’s Project Connect leaders have released new renderings that highlight future expansion and light rail buildout opportunities under each proposal.
Austin Transit Partnership, CapMetro and city leaders shared the updated renderings during the city’s Housing and Planning Committee meeting Tuesday. All three entities are currently gathering public feedback on the options through May 2, with a final version set to be announced in June.
“The full vision is there, and will be completed,” said Annick Beaudet with the City of Austin’s Project Connect office. “We’re committed to that. It’s just, because of funding constraints we’ve talked about extensively over the past year, we’re building a core system as an initial investment.”
Both Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Paige Ellis and Austin City Council Member José “Chito” Vela have requested more concrete data on costs and ridership for each design version.
As of Tuesday, project officials said they didn’t have a definitive timeline on when those would be made public. KXAN has reached out to ATP for an update; this story will be updated if that is received.
Vela, as well as Housing and Planning Committee Chair Natasha Harper-Madison, said that ridership and cost data is critical in ensuring residents are making informed decisions when it comes to critiquing the five different proposals.
“We are retrofitting major transit infrastructure in the eleventh largest city in the nation. This is a big deal,” Harper-Madison said. “So folks want to be able to follow along and they need good data in order to be able to participate in the conversation.”
What are the light rail design options under consideration?
38th Street to Oltorf Street to Yellow Jacket Lane
Option No. 1 would have a street-level system extending from 38th Street in the north down south to Oltorf Street via South Congress Avenue, and southeast to Yellow Jacket Lane via East Riverside Drive.
As for lake crossings, those could come via South First Street or along Trinity Street.
There are also possibilities the route will extend north toward 45th Street, or south toward St. Edwards Drive, depending on costs. As for future extensions, three options are highlighted on the upgrades maps: North past 45th Street, south past St. Edward’s Drive and further southeast beyond Yellow Jacket Lane to the airport.
North Lamar Boulevard to Pleasant Valley Road
Option No. 2 features a more prominent footprint in north Austin, albeit a shorter extension southeast. The line’s endpoints include the North Lamar Transit Center, running street-level from NLTC down North Lamar Boulevard. It would then veer southeast along East Riverside Drive, before ending at Pleasant Valley Road.
Similar to Option No. 1, Option No. 2 would cross Lady Bird Lake either at South First Street or Trinity Street.
Future expansions could see the route continuing south of the river in addition to more mileage heading southeast, beyond Pleasant Valley Road to the airport.
29th Street to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Option No. 3 would begin in Austin’s North University neighborhood at 29th Street and Guadalupe Street before heading southeast to Yellow Jacket Lane via East Riverside Drive.
The majority of the path would be on-street, while a segment of it will be elevated from SH 71 to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. This is the only initial investment segment featuring a route that heads directly to AUS.
Future investments could include additional extensions south of the river, as well as north of 29th Street past the intersection with the Red Line.
29th Street to Oltorf Street to Yellow Jacket Lane
Option No. 4 runs at street level from 29th Street at Guadalupe Street down south of 8th Street. From there, there would be an elevated segment south of 8th Street along Guadalupe Street southeast to Auditorium Shores. This area would have elevated stations.
Afterward, the route will continue at street level east of Auditorium Shores to Oltorf Street via South Congress Avenue, as well as southeast to Yellow Jacket Lane courtesy of East Riverside Drive.
Option No. 4 would cross Lady Bird Lake at South First Street.
Future investment opportunities include continuing the line south of Lady Bird Lake, further southeast beyond Yellow Jacket Lane to AUS, as well as building it northward toward the North Lamar Transit Center, crossing the Red Line in north central Austin.
University of Texas at Austin to Yellow Jacket Lane
Option No. 5 features a partially underground route that heads from UT Austin down to Yellow Jacket Lane. The route begins underground at 20th Street and Guadalupe Street, before heading south of 8th Street. It’ll include one underground station.
Afterward, it’ll be elevated south of 8th Street along Guadalupe Street, traveling east of Auditorium Shores, where there will be elevated stations.
As it moves further east from Auditorium Shores, the route will move to the street level and carry on along East Riverside Drive to Yellow Jacket Lane. Option No. 5 would cross the lake at South First Street.
Future expansion opportunities include continuing the line south of Lady Bird Lake, further southeast beyond Yellow Jacket Lane to AUS, as well as building it northward toward the North Lamar Transit Center, crossing the Red Line in north central Austin.
Project Connect is accepting public feedback on the design options through May 2.
More details on the Project Connect light rail proposals are available online. To give feedback on the latest design options, email your comments to email@example.com or by mailing them to 203 Colorado St., Austin.