Proposed downtown Austin MetroRail station The proposed downtown Austin MetroRail station will have three platforms that can hold six rail cars. The new station will be relocated a half a block east between Neches and Red River streets.[/caption]

Design of the new three-platform downtown Austin MetroRail station will wrap up in early 2017 with service rolling in by fall 2018.

Capital Metro’s board of directors approved a $2.5 million contract July 25 with Downtown Gateway Partners to complete final design and engineering services.

Board President Wade Cooper said planning has included a lot of hard work in the community to make sure the project is right because of its location near the Austin Convention Center and Hilton Austin hotel.

“To me this may be the most important decision this board makes this year in terms of finding a way to get three tracks in here because this is probably the biggest single pipe in getting people downtown and the most efficient way to get people into downtown,” he said at the July 25 board meeting.

Proposed downtown Austin MetroRail station Between Trinity and Neches streets will be a transit plaza that will be pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. Traffic will be closed off between vehicles on this portion of Fourth Street.[/caption]

The new station is part of several MetroRail upgrades Capital Metro is planning thanks in part to a $50 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. The city of Austin’s transit agency also received about $11.3 million from the Federal Transit Administration to add a second set of tracks at three stations and make other upgrades.

Out of the $50 million grant, $22 million will fund the downtown station upgrades, and $28 million will go toward purchasing new rail cars to allow for 15-minute headways between cars instead of 30 minutes currently.

The existing downtown station was built as a temporary platform adjacent to the Austin Convention Center on Fourth Street between Trinity and Neches streets. The location and size bring about safety issues during major events, such as the South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals held at the convention center, said Marcus Guerrero, project manager for capital projects at Capital Metro.

The new station will have three platforms and be relocated half a block east between Neches and Red River streets, he said.

“We want to make sure we can accommodate more train vehicles at the station; we’ll have room for six vehicles,” he said. “We’re going to adjust the safety issues I mentioned as well.”

Other upgrades include rebuilding the bridge over Waller Creek, sidewalk improvements and a new transit plaza. Traffic on Fourth between Red River and Trinity will be for pedestrians and bicyclists only. Traffic on Neches will end in a cul-de-sac at Fourth Street, and Fifth Street will be converted into a two-way street, Guerrero said.

Capital Metro and the city of Austin are working on an interlocal agreement to lay out the terms of using easements and use of the transit plaza. Capital Metro’s board is slated to approve the agreement in August, and Austin City Council is expected to vote on it in September.