Capital Metro unveils initial plans for six underground rail stations in downtown Austin

Project Connect's proposed Republic Square Station would have stops for the Blue and Orange lines. (Rendering courtesy Project Connect)
Project Connect's proposed Republic Square Station would have stops for the Blue and Orange lines. (Rendering courtesy Project Connect)

Project Connect's proposed Republic Square Station would have stops for the Blue and Orange lines. (Rendering courtesy Project Connect)

Capital Metro unveiled initial plans July 13, detailing how much of its future light rail network will navigate the downtown Austin corridor.

This section, which will likely be the most complicated and expensive portion of Project Connect, will include six underground stops at Republic Square, Congress Avenue, Government Center/Capitol West, the Rainey/Mexican American Cultural Center, Convention Center/Brush Square (currently Downtown Station) and the Auditorium Shores stations. The map below provides details on those proposed locations.

Peter Mullan, Austin Transit Partnership chief of architecture and urban design, said plans are 15% designed for the $7.1 billion project, and they could change as Capital Metro continues to evaluate rail station and tunnel locations.

Capital Metro officials unveiled one of the larger changes to the original design: the Orange Line will now likely go under Lady Bird Lake instead of using a bridge to go over the body of water. That underwater tunnel segment will likely be just west of the South First Street Bridge and connect the Republic Square and Auditorium Shores stations.

“A lot of it has to do with the grading,” Mullan said. “It's just very hard to find a place to come out of the ground because you start sloping up, so much so quickly.”

He added that traffic conflicts on the north side of Lady Bird Lake and flood zone issues on the south side of the lake factored into the decision.

Capital Metro is still assessing whether that tunnel would go back to the surface before or after the SoCo Station, located near the intersection of South Congress Avenue and West Johanna Street.

The Government Center/Capitol West Station will be the last underground stop on the north side of the Orange Line. That station will be on Guadalupe Street at either West 12th, 13th or 15th Street.

Capital Metro is also evaluating whether the train will emerge from the tunnel at the intersection of Guadalupe Street and either West 18th Street or just north of West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The tunnel will not extend onto The University of Texas at Austin campus in large part due to cost constraints, ATP Deputy Program Officer John Rhone said.

The Republic Square Station, which will have stops for the Blue Line and Orange Line, also needed modifications. Because the Texas State Legislature did not pass House Bill 3893, Capital Metro officials said they will not be able to build a tunnel below Republic Square. Instead, the platforms will be located just north of Republic Square on Guadalupe Street. The proposed signature entrance for that station is now at West Fourth and Guadalupe streets.

In addition to the tunneled rail network, Capital Metro plans to make the section of Fourth from the Brush Square to Republic Square a more pedestrian friendly street, giving Austin a “green spine” that cuts through downtown, Mullan said.

The section—named the Downtown Transit Hub—will have three levels. One will be at street level, a second will be a concourse area below ground and the third will be the rail two levels below ground. As with all stations, the hub will be accessible for people of all abilities, using clear signage, elevators and escalators, officials said.
By Benton Graham

Metro Reporter, Austin

Benton joined Community Impact Newspaper as a metro reporter covering transportation in Central Texas in June 2021. Benton's writing has appeared in Vox, The Austin Chronicle, Austonia and Reporting Texas. Originally from Minneapolis, Benton graduated from William & Mary and eventually moved to Austin in 2018.


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