AUSTIN (KXAN) — After Project Connect leaders debuted five reduced light rail scope options last month, officials spoke Thursday on how the system will be built out in the future.
The two-hour community meeting featured engagement opportunities between the public and program leadership. Some questions from the public highlighted concerns with the narrowed vision behind the light rail scope — initially presented to voters as two light rail lines, the Blue and Orange lines.
Thursday evening, officials said the decisions to come this June won’t encompass the totality of all future light rail in Austin; rather, they called it the jumping off point for future buildout.
Each of the five options will incorporate opportunities for future connections north, south and east, they added.
“It will allow us to build out the full vision that you also voted for over time. That’s the plan,” said Peter Mullan, executive vice president of architecture and urban design for the project. “What we’re talking about now, I think, is ‘what is the first piece that we should be building?'”
Officials said project leaders are incorporating feedback from the public through May 2 before an official decision is made on the initial investment. Some of the considerations being weighed through this project include:
- Estimated average daily passengers on each route
- Community demographics of areas served
- Connectivity with key destinations in Austin
- Equitable distribution of resources
Annick Beaudet with the City of Austin said the selection process includes both planning for current transit riders within CapMetro’s system, as well as projecting and anticipating future ridership. As part of the city’s Strategic Mobility Plan, she said land use development and building more compact, walkable centers will help support mass transit growth.
Some members of the public noted differences between the current options versus the initial conceptual map shown to voters for the past two-and-a-half years. Part of those changes reflected in the latest design considerations were made to minimize the overall costs of this first investment.
Right now, all five options on the table are estimated at approximately $5 billion.
Lindsay Wood with the Austin Transit Partnership added its integral Project Connect is “good stewards” to the tax dollars voters approved in the November 2020 election, while also maximizing the federal dollars the project can receive via grants and other funding opportunities.
This comes after the city announced in late February its partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund transportation initiatives, including Project Connect. Wood said Thursday project leaders anticipate roughly half of the light rail’s costs will be funded via federal dollars.
Those wanting to review the light rail options can find them online. To give feedback, you can upload them online, email your comments to email@example.com or mail them physically to ATP at 203 Colorado St., Austin.