Capital Metro shares details on rail lines that will connect several Austin areas to airport

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Capital Metro is kicking off a series of public meetings Tuesday that will run through Aug. 5 for the Orange and Blue Line projects.

The two light rail tracks will connect north, south and east Austin to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Staff says design plans are 15% complete for those lines.

Tuesday’s virtual meeting was all about the 8.2 mile blue line, which will run from Republic Square to the airport.

The first station from the airport will be the Metro Center Station. Right now, members are deciding between two locations: On East Riverside Drive near Coriander Drive or East Riverside Drive on the other side of State Highway 71.

“I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s going to bring a lot of people together, and we need more options in this town,” said Chris Ahuero, as he hopped on a bus near the potential Coriander Drive location.

But it comes with some concern for another neighbor.

“I don’t know how close it’s going to be, but I think it’s going to be noisy, especially in the mornings when everybody’s trying to get to work,” said Gustabo Ortega, who just moved to Austin.

Project Connect members say they’re conducting environmental studies that include noise and vibration. A draft is expected next spring.

The other possible Metro Center Station location comes with other concerns.

“That creates some other challenges of maintaining access to the hotel and the Starbucks and also these other parking areas in here,” explained Blue Line consultant Dale Murphy in a virtual open house video.

This map indicates where the Blue Line will be able to connect to the Gold ("G"), Orange ("O"), Green ("G") and Red ("R") lines, as well as local bus routes ("BUS"  and proposed park-and-ride lots ("P"). (Source: Capital Metro)
This map indicates where the Blue Line will be able to connect to the Gold (“G”), Orange (“O”), Green (“G”) and Red (“R”) lines, as well as local bus routes (“BUS” and proposed park-and-ride lots (“P”). (Source: Capital Metro)

Right of way concerns

There are also questions further down the line, near the Waterfront Station. Staff says the rail will have to make it through a narrow passage, which may impact Riverwalk Condominiums.

“When you say property impacts, does that mean the city buys some property or like eminent domain some property?” asked Brian Lukoff, who lives across from the condos, during Tuesday’s virtual public meeting.

“There’s an entire team that has been walking this corridor and other corridors when there’s a constrained right of way to talk to property owners about options,” responded Lonny Stern of the Austin Transit Partnership.

But members stress these are just the preliminary 15% design plans, and they continue to evolve.

Other updates

The line is expected to run under downtown’s Fourth and Trinity Streets and cross Lady Bird Lake on a new transit bridge.

CapMetro staff said the subway will include screen doors when the train is not at the platform, to block off the rail from pedestrians standing above.

In conjunction with the two-hour virtual meetings, Capital Metro also launched an “on-demand virtual open house,” releasing design details on both lines as well as chances for residents to leave their feedback about the plans.

Capital Metro is kicking off a series of public meetings on Tuesday that will run through Aug. 5 for the Orange and Blue Line projects (Courtesy of CapMetro)
Capital Metro is kicking off a series of public meetings on Tuesday that will run through Aug. 5 for the Orange and Blue Line projects (Courtesy of CapMetro)

Other Blue Line updates include drilling being finished for nine out of 10 borings for the subway tunnel. Noise and vibration investigations are currently underway, according to the latest documents.

According to documents released Tuesday, 10 stations are planned along the route, with service roughly every 10 minutes.

The next design milestone will be 30%, which is expected next spring.

You can view all other upcoming meetings and register for them here.

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