Proposed canopy, plaza designs for new permanent downtown Austin MetroRail station revealed

Capital Metro originally built the downtown MetroRail station as a temporary platform. On April 25, nonprofit group Urban Land Institute came out in support of the agency's plans to build a permanent multimodal station.

Capital Metro originally built the downtown MetroRail station as a temporary platform. On April 25, nonprofit group Urban Land Institute came out in support of the agency's plans to build a permanent multimodal station.

Three canopy options were revealed today for the new permanent downtown Austin MetroRail station that is slated to be under construction in late 2017 or early 2018.

Capital Metro sought feedback for the proposed designs—a vaulted canopy, a tilted vaulted canopy and pentagonal parasols—at a public open house.

Each of the options cost around $1.5 million and will provide shelter and shade during inclement weather.

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The canopy will cover a new 16-foot permanent rail station that will replace the current 11-foot temporary station next to the Austin Convention Center on Red River Street between Neches and Red River streets.

The rail station is expected to include three platforms that can hold six rail cars and will be relocated a half a block east between Neches and Red River streets. The existing downtown station was built as a temporary platform adjacent to the Austin Convention Center on Fourth Street between Trinity and Neches streets.

Programming options for the new plaza that will replace the temporary station were also revealed at the open house. Food trucks and street vendors with pop-up tents are included in the plaza programming possibilities.

In addition to new trackwork and platforms, the project includes upgrades to the sidewalks, the replacement of a portion of the Waller Creek Bridge and the closing of two blocks to cars between Trinity and Neches streets.

In order to compensate for the closing of two blocks to cars, The Austin Transportation Department has proposed converting Fifth Street—which is currently a one-way street—into a two-way street, with two lanes heading eastbound toward I-35, and one lane heading westbound toward Congress Avenue.

Lee Austin, a central area engineer with ATD, said costs to convert the road would be minimal, and public input will be sought before the changes begin. She said work will begin on the road before Capital Metro begins construction on the new MetroRail station.

The new station—which Capital Metro began working on in 2014—is part of several MetroRail upgrades Capital Metro is planning in part because of 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.

Plaza and canopy designs revealed for downtown Austin MetroRail station A plaza will be built around Trinity and Neches streets that is bike- and pedestrian-friendly.[/caption]

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.

Marcus Guerrero, project manager for capital projects at Capital Metro, said the next step is to meet with Austin City Council in a month or so to request permission to construct on the city's right of way streets.

Guerrero pointed to several ongoing projects around the MetroRail station, including the Fairmont Hotel, which is slated to be complete at the end of the summer; the Hilton Austin hotel, which has plans to build a walkway that connects to the Austin Convention Center; the proposed expansion of the Austin Convention Center; and the Sabine Street Promenade outdoor public artwork project between Fourth and Sixth streets.

Guerrero said about 60 percent of the MetroRail design is nearing completion. He anticipates having several more open houses before construction begins.

Additional reporting by Amy Denney