Capital Metro unveils draft regional transit plan for bus, rail that could head to voters in November 2020

Commissioners weighed funding a study for the proposed Green Line transit corridor between downtown Austin and Manor on Tuesday.

Commissioners weighed funding a study for the proposed Green Line transit corridor between downtown Austin and Manor on Tuesday.

Image description
MetroRapid
Image description
MetroRail
Image description
Project Connect map
Capital Metro unveiled a draft map March 26 outlining future transit corridors in a plan that could go before voters in November 2020 for approval.

For the last two years, Capital Metro has been spearheading the revamp of Project Connect, a regional plan aimed at connecting people and places through high-capacity transit.

During the March 26 board meeting, Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro’s vice president of planning strategic development, discussed the preliminary plan that also will be presented to residents at the Traffic Jam! event March 28 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Austin Central Library, 710 W. Cesar Chavez St., Austin.

“We are trying to create a true regional vision for Central Texas,” Hemingson said. “What kind of impact can we have, a multigenerational investment. It will not be done in year one. What can we improve what we have and develop new services with people-moving capacity. This is really connecting people and place across Central Texas.”

The draft Project Connect map shows 11 corridors—some with options for future extensions—of locations for future high-capacity transit, such as light rail, commuter rail or bus-rapid transit similar to the agency’s MetroRapid routes. Corridors that are at the top of the list so far include the Riverside Drive corridor out to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the South Congress corridor down to Slaughter Lane and the North Lamar Boulevard corridor up to Tech Ridge.

The regional transit agency is staying mum on which modes it is pitching for each corridor until additional planning can be done on the corridors. This move comes weeks after a preliminary draft of the plan was tweeted out during a joint meeting with a city committee that indicated possible rail lines.

Randy Clarke, who began his role as Capital Metro’s CEO and president March 7, said pulling back on modes to focus on the right corridors was intentional.

“It doesn’t matter what mode we go with if we don’t have a dedicated right of way in a corridor,” he said. “I think that’s saying the obvious, but I really want to make sure the larger community gets more of an understanding and feel for that.”

As part of the planning process, Capital Metro board members also approved a resolution March 26 requesting the city of Austin put up to $15 million on the November 2018 bond for preliminary engineering and environmental analysis work to further study the corridors and modes. The work is estimated to cost between $17.5 million and $22.5 million, and Capital Metro is asking for assistance in funding the next phase of planning.

“That’s really critical to keep the ball rolling, so to speak, in terms of maintaining progress, but we need to provide additional information so if we get to the point where we’re asking for public support in terms of funding for Project Connect, we will have the additional details, the fine-grain analysis done, so we can answer some of the questions that inevitably will arise,” Hemingson said.

In the next few months, Hemingson said staffers will look at how to phase the transit plan, prioritize corridors and pay for it. This step likely will give initial direction on which transit mode might be pursued for each corridor, he said.

“In our phasing and prioritization [phase], we will probably have a bundle of projects that are the ones that we would propose for funding through some kind of public ask in 2020,” Hemingson said.

The estimated ballpark cost of the plan is between $6 billion and $8 billion. Future phases of projects would also require additional voter-approved funding, Hemingson said.
By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


MOST RECENT

Hays County opened its COVID-19 vaccine portal Jan. 22. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Vaccine portal opens in Hays County; read Austin business news and more Central Texas info

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he will announce statewide plans to address homelessness that include camping bans. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: Governor plans statewide camping ban, COVID-19 numbers flatten and more

Questions remain about the legality of the camping ban, which a local group is also hoping to get on the May 2021 ballot.

The Austin Community College District's 28,000-square-foot culinary arts wing is now open at ACC Highland. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Second phase of ACC Highland campus opens in Central Austin

The campus is home to the Austin Community College District's Culinary Arts Department.

Registration for Williamson County COVID-19 vaccines opened Jan. 19. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Register for vaccine in WilCo; 24 restaurants to try in Leander, Cedar Park and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said those who wish to return to campus can do so beginning Jan. 25. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD families can return to campus after 2 weeks of encouraging virtual learning

Austin ISD has seen a 28% decrease in weekly coronavirus cases since the first week of January.

The legality of reinstating tighter restrictions on public camping, solicitation, and sitting and lying down remains vague. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats ‘statewide camping ban’ as homeless debate heats up

The legality of reinstating tighter restrictions on public camping, solicitation, and sitting and lying down remains vague.

Teal House Coffee & Bakery’s menu includes items such as the cinnamon roll croissant. (Courtesy Teal House Coffee & Bakery)
Teal House Coffee & Bakery opening South Congress brick and mortar in Austin Jan. 30

The location will be the food truck's first brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Dr. Judith L. Thompson recently took the time to answer several general questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)
'We still have a long way to go': Central Texas physician answers questions about COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Judith L. Thompson recently took the time to answer several general questions for Community Impact Newspaper related to the coronavirus vaccine, its efficacy and costs, and other related matters.

Goodwill Central Texas opened a location at 2415 S. Congress Ave., Austin, on Jan. 14. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
New South Congress Goodwill now open

The new store is open for retail services and also accepts donations.

Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol. The Texas Legislature began its 2021 session Jan. 12. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
School funding once again a major focus for Austin ISD during legislative session

The district will also be watching for legislation regarding charter schools, accountability, pandemic relief and local control.