Shaping the future of Project Connect’s Blue Line light rail stations, connecting with neighborhoods to ensure equity

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — CapMetro will host a virtual Community Design Workshop Wednesday for Project Connect’s Blue Line focused on the future Riverside Station. The 8.2-mile-long light rail line will feature 11 stations and travel from downtown Republic Square to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The Blue Line map reflects potential future operations of Blue Line trains traveling on the Orange Line infrastructure from Republic Square to the North Lamar Transit Center. For the purposes of the environmental review process, the proposed Blue Line infrastructure is between Republic Square and the Airport, according to CapMetro.

The station will be built near the intersection of Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley. Officials plan to build two stations in the area. One station will be for the light rail line, and another for a new MetroRapid service route that would travel from Mueller to the Goodnight Ranch Park and Ride.

These changes will have an impact on the neighborhood and CapMetro leaders said they want to hear from the community on what they would like to see added to the new stations all while ensuring equity. Of the $7.1 billion price tag for Project Connect, $300 million is slated for anti-displacement efforts. Transit leaders said it’s still too early to know how they will spend those dollars.

Earlier this year, a community group got together to create an equity tool through the City of Austin and CapMetro. A guide resulting from those meetings will determine how the agency spends those anti-displacement funds. Officials said they’re working to also ensure equity when it comes to how they receive feedback to make sure every voice is heard.

“The equity question is why we need to have these conversations at the neighborhood level and we need to listen to what the community’s needs are before we make design decisions,” said Jackie Nirenberg, the director of community engagement and involvement for the Austin Transit Partnership.

Data from the City of Austin specifically for this area near this intersection shows more than half of the people who live there are Hispanic. Transit officials said they understand not everyone in the community may be as tech-savvy, have internet access or have time to attend meetings so they plan to eventually meet people in person and go to the community for outreach but with COVID-19 that could take a couple of months.

Thursday’s virtual meeting will provide people with a walkthrough of the station area and be broadcasted in both English and Spanish.

The next meeting regarding Project Connect’s light rail lines will be in early October focused on the Orange Line.

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