AUSTIN (KXAN) — “How do we make transit as easy and frictionless to access as possible?”
That is one of the guiding questions surrounding Project Connect, said Peter Mullan, chief of architecture and urban design for Austin Transit Partnership. In addition to its safety, accessibility and connectivity components, he said Project Connect is as much an opportunity to create a cultural epicenter on Austin’s Fourth Street.
Austin voters approved the $7.1 billion Project Connect plan in the November 2020 election. The initiative details a massive expansion to the city’s public transit options.
“This is the most transformational thing that’s happening to Austin in a very long time,” said Jackie Nirenberg, director of community engagement and involvement for ATP.
Under current project iterations, the Fourth Street mobility corridor would be the hub of activity and the meeting place of the blue, orange, red and green lines. Three subway stations — Republic Square Station, Congress Ave Station and the Convention Center/Brush Square Station — would convene along Fourth Street.
As a transportation epicenter, Mullan noted the prospect of enhancements to pedestrian access, retail opportunities and cultural events and festivals off Fourth Street, with direct access to transit available.
“We think Fourth Street can be one of the great streets of Austin,” he said.
Designs for the three stations along Fourth Street are intended to marry Austin’s historical squares, Republic and Brush, with its civic landmarks and infrastructure along Congress Avenue. Mullan also noted an opportunity to expand upon historic elements with the combination of transit, retail and public amenities with the addition of these stations.
“We have the opportunity to create a new civic landmark, combining transit with retail and public amenities, with potential office floors above,” he said.
Officials detailed a three-level transit-way connecting street, concourse and platform levels across the length of Fourth Street. Elevators, escalators and stairs will be present at all major entrances, while a continuous concourse will run on the second level, just beneath the roadway.
Noted features of the multi-level system highlight the inclusion of natural light from the streets above down onto the concourse, as well as multiple access points and sightlines guiding users through the station.
While the above-ground elements of Fourth Street are within the city of Austin’s right of way and jurisdiction, ATP officials said Tuesday it is working in tandem with city leaders to collaborate on these stations. Above-ground improvements will be required regardless due to the nature of constructing subway stations and rail lines, Mullan said, adding all amenities envisioned will be funded via Project Connect.
As for the future of vehicular traffic on Fourth Street, Mullan noted all ideas are preliminary but said the vision is to make the roadway as pedestrian-friendly as possible. He said details of traffic management are still preliminary, but said some form of modification to vehicular traffic on the roadway is likely.