Newly announced federal funding will support Capital Metro's plans to double-track a portion of its Red Line commuter rail line, upgrade the Plaza Saltillo station, and bring other mobility and safety improvements to East Austin.

The background

The U.S. Department of Transportation on June 28 announced nearly $100 million would be distributed to a handful of infrastructure initiatives across Texas, including an $18 million allocation for CapMetro's Austin project. The funding comes as part of the DOT's RAISE grant program that was expanded under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in 2021.

“Using the funds in President [Joe] Biden’s infrastructure law, we are helping communities in every state across the country realize their visions for new infrastructure projects,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This round of RAISE grants is helping create a new generation of good-paying jobs in rural and urban communities alike, with projects whose benefits will include improving safety, fighting climate change, advancing equity, strengthening our supply chain and more.”

As part of the competitive, national RAISE grant process, the DOT said the Austin rail project graded well based on "environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness and opportunity, and partnership and collaboration."

The details

The project will add a new rail track for the Red Line between Onion Street west of Plaza Saltillo and Matamoros Street just over a half-mile to the east.

CapMetro is also planning for several other updates in addition to double-tracking for that stretch of the commuter rail, including:
  • Adding a second platform and new signals at Plaza Saltillo
  • Adding new bike and pedestrian infrastructure between Chicon and Pedernales streets
  • Reconfiguring the Fifth Street roadway along the rail route
  • Improving safety at five intersections with the track
  • Implementing positive train control modifications

CapMetro spokesperson Blythe Nebeker said the project is still in preliminary development and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2026.

"We are still in the early phases of the design process, and once we get closer to the construction date, we'll know more about the process and potential closures," she said in an email.

Alongside the federal grant, CapMetro plans to spend $13.2 million of its funding on the Red Line improvements. The local and DOT dollars will be used for design, engineering and construction work.

“CapMetro is always working to improve public transportation in our region, and this grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will help us make great strides to connect our community even more with the Red Line and through better bike trail coordination around Central Texas," CapMetro President and CEO Dottie Watkins said in a statement. "This grant wouldn’t be possible without the support of our congressional delegation across Central Texas.”

Several of those Central Texas lawmakers also lauded the federal grant award on June 28.CapMetro's commuter rail connects downtown Austin to Leander, and a separate double-tracking project at the system's northern end was completed earlier this year. CapMetro is also in the process of adding a new station along the Red Line to provide access to Q2 Stadium and the surrounding area in Northwest Austin, a project it expects to complete this fall.