The Capital Metro board of directors authorized the public transit agency to put $4.7 million in federal funding toward a project at the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and Airport Boulevard. The funding allows Capital Metro to take the next step in deciding if it will put the MetroRail Red Line above or below street level at the intersection.

Project Connect envisions the area as a critical convergence of MetroRail lines, as the system map shows the Red, Orange and Blue lines all running through the adjacent Crestview Station.

“That is going to be one of the greatest, most complex areas in all of Project Connect for us to get right,” Board Member Eric Stratton said. “That's because you're trying to connect an existing freight rail Red Line with now the light rail, plus the vehicle transportation [and] the cars in that area.”

As far as grade separation, Capital Metro still needs to decide if the Red Line will tunnel below or elevate above the intersection, said Sharmila Mukherjee, Capital Metro’s executive vice president for planning and development.

“We’re basically separating rail from vehicular traffic to limit congestion,” Mukherjee said. “It’s just a very tough intersection that affects our reliability.”

The $4.7 million in funding will go toward preliminary engineering, final design and environmental clearance, she added.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization deferred projects, including the work at the North Lamar and Airport intersection, in June 2020 to make $633 million available for the I-35 Central project. However, during its Nov. 8 meeting, the CAMPO transportation policy board approved funding for the project once again.