Capital Metro unveils downtown MetroRail designs, as Austin rail conversation heats up again

Design work is slated to be finished in April 2018, but preliminary designs of the permanent downtown MetroRail station show a new covered platform.

Design work is slated to be finished in April 2018, but preliminary designs of the permanent downtown MetroRail station show a new covered platform.

Image description
Image description
Preliminary design for downtown MetroRail station
Image description
Preliminary design for downtown MetroRail station
Image description
Preliminary design for downtown MetroRail station
During a Wednesday open house, Capital Metro showed off their nearly-done designs for the new downtown MetroRail station coming in 2021.

"We're really excited that the new station will have 5 trains, 3 tracks, new custom architectural features and a new public plaza," Marcus Guerrero with Capital Metro said.

Capital Metro's Sam Sargent says, thanks to a Texas Department of Transportation grant, four more vehicles were added to the fleet recently. So they beefed up the schedule with 3 additional trips in the morning and afternoon, and Capital Metro is working on improving how often the trains run.

Sargent says right now they're at 34-minute frequencies during peak times.

"As part of a federal grant we're adding 3 additional places for our trains to pass. These passing points are going to be at Lakeline, Howard and Crestview Station and that's going to allow us by the end of the year we hope to get those frequencies down to about 20 minutes," Sargent said.

Sargent says longer term, the plan is to put double tracking on the whole 32-mile stretch of the Red Line. And when the downtown station is built, frequencies are expected to be in the 12- to 15-minute range.

"The Red Line is sometimes controversial but it's an investment we've already made so we should continue to invest in making it more efficient," J.D. Gins said.

Gins is District 4 Council Member Greg Casar's appointee on the Urban Transportation Commission.

Gins supported the 2014 Project Connect plan for more Austin rail that voters ultimately didn't approve.

"I think a lot of people would argue that that was the wrong plan. When you have most of your vocal transit advocates against the plan you're putting forward you're probably climbing up the wrong hill," Gins said.

Gins says rail advocates are still working hard to get something on a ballot. Possibly in 2020.

"With Cap Metro showing potentially that Lamar and South Congress could be the backbone of a new system, I think you're going to see a lot more support," Gins said.

He's referring to images that surfaced on social media in mid-February of a potential 12-mile, more than $2 billion rail line in the center of Austin.

The idea piqued the interest of those hoping for ways to beat Austin traffic.

Gins says rail advocates should be honest about it taking billions of dollars to build a rail system that could benefit the whole region. "If the first phase is working, then you bring the next piece forward so it's not going to be a one-time $3 billion but it is a costly thing. But when we look at it compared to say tearing down I-35 and re-shaping I-35 completely, that's not even guaranteeing to actually change the output of traffic through I-35," Gins said.

Capital Metro staffers say they have track that goes to Manor; it's just being used for freight now so they're looking at that as well as corridors within the city of Austin.

They say construction on the new Red Line passing points is happening at Lakeline and Howard right now. Crestview will start in a month. And the work is expected to take the rest of the year.

Capital Metro says the new and improved 20-minute frequencies will be ready to go either in January or next June.

Reporting is provided as part of Community Impact Newspaper’s partnership with Fox 7 News
By Fox 7


Round Rock ISD released enrollment information for its virtual learning program July 29. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD releases virtual learning enrollment information

Round Rock ISD released enrollment information for its fall 2021 virtual learning program July 29.

Public schools cannot require students, teachers, parents, and other staff members or visitors to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Greg Abbott declared in an executive order issued May 18. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Leander ISD 'highly recommends' masks; tax-free weekend tips and more Austin-area news

Read the latest business and education news from the Central Texas area.

Sinaloan seafood restaurant El Coco Pirata is now open in Northwest Austin. (Community Impact Newspaper)
New Mexican seafood spot El Coco Pirata now open in Northwest Austin

El Coco Pirata serves classic Sinaloan seafood dishes.

School supplies will be exempt from the 8.25% sales tax Aug. 6-8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What to know before the statewide tax-free weekend Aug. 6-8

Customers will not have to pay the standard 8.25% sales tax on select clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks under $100.

Photo of the Sobering Center
Travis County moves forward with plans for mental health diversion program at Sobering Center

The program would divert people experiencing mental health crises away from jail and towards supportive services following low-level offenses.

Baylor Scott & White Pflugerville
Ascension, Baylor Scott & White to require all employees be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by fall

Ascension and Baylor Scott & White have announced all eligible employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the coming months. 

Austin City Council will convene for a regular meeting July 29, its first since mid-June. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Council to look at downtown safety, homelessness and budgeting in return from meetings break

The first regular council meeting since mid-June features a packed agenda and opportunity for resident feedback on Austin's proposed budget.

Photo of a hand holding a vaccine vial
As COVID-19 hospitalizations track upward, Austin Public Health renews call for vaccinations

APH also mirrors the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest guidance for vaccinated individuals to wear masks in some circumstances.

The request to table talks regarding designated campsites came one week after city staff detailed two properties that could be used for such an initiative. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Ellis, Harper-Madison call for halt to Austin's 'Band-Aid' sanctioned homeless encampment plans

The East and Southwest Austin representatives shared their thoughts on the process one week after city properties in their districts were tapped as workable encampment sites.

Community Impact Newspaper
Q&A:Northwest Austin Realtor offers tips for today's real estate market

A real estate professional answers some commonly asked questions.

The CDC reversed its masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals in response to the transmissibility of the delta variant of COVID-19 in a press conference July 27. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
NEW CDC GUIDANCE: All individuals should wear masks in K-12 schools, including those who are fully vaccinated

The new CDC guidance, announced July 27, also recommends people in areas with "high" or "substantial" levels of transmission wear masks regardless of vaccination status.