City of Leander, Capital Metro building connections to ACC San Gabriel campus

As Austin Community College prepares for the opening of its first Leander campus next year, the city of Leander and Austin’s transit agency are designing roadway and trail projects that will connect to the campus.

The 100-acre San Gabriel campus site, located between Hero Way, Mel Mathis Boulevard and Toll 183A, sits within Leander’s transit-oriented development, or TOD, district, which is the city’s walkable mixed-use district focused around transportation. Initial enrollment capacity is expected to hold 2,000-2,500 students, and the campus is planned to open for the summer 2018 session.

Both the city of Leander and Capital Metro have been working on projects that will provide connectivity into the planned campus, Leander Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said.

In 2016, Leander voters approved a $70.9 million bond election that included $22.5 million in roadway projects. Of that amount, $6.1 million was slated for the extension of Metro Drive from its current location at the Leander Park & Ride. The extended roadway will connect to Mel Mathis, off which will be the main entrance to ACC, Yantis said.

“It’s the biggest thing that the city’s doing, in terms of dollar-wise, to get that street connection finished, hopefully around the same time as the campus opening,” he said.

The city is about 75 percent complete with the engineering phase of the project, and Yantis said construction is planned to begin later this year.

At the same time, Capital Metro is building a pedestrian connection from the Leander train station to the campus. The project consists of a 10-foot hike and bike trail with a bridge over Brushy Creek that will have lights to ensure students’ safety in the early morning and evening, said Mariette Hummel, a spokesperson with Capital Metro.

The transit agency is working with a private property owner for part of the project and with the city of Leander for the portion that runs along city property. Hummel said the trail will be dedicated to the city for maintenance after it is complete.

“This will provide the most direct pedestrian access from the train station into the first building on ACC’s campus,” Yantis said.

The city of Leander already has a trail on the south side of Brushy Creek that runs under Mel Mathis, and the new trail provided by Capital Metro will run on the north side, he said. The trail will become part of the overall Brushy Creek Trail network that is planned for the area, through which Leander aims to connect public and privately developed trails into Round Rock and Hutto.

Aside from extending Metro Drive and building the pedestrian trail, Yantis said other private development will be under construction around the San Gabriel campus at the same time.

Transit Village Investments owns land on the west side of Mel Mathis and is planning a multifamily project between Mel Mathis and the railroad tracks, Yantis said. The developer aims to build several east-west and north-south connecting streets, which will create a grid of public streets inside the TOD district.

Jessica Vess, a spokesperson with ACC, said the San Gabriel campus was strategically placed inside Leander’s TOD district to ensure the campus’ connectivity to the city and to ACC’s other campuses.

“The campus features access to the Capital Metro rail, regional tollways and freeways, and community-centered transportation such as bike lanes and walking paths,” she said. “By centering an educational institution in the middle of a thriving mixed-use district, ACC is expanding its reach in the community with new access to higher education.”