The Austin Chronicle

CCAG Recommends Rail Plan

By Michael King, June 13, 2014, 5:15pm, Newsdesk

Friday afternoon, the Central Corridor Advisory Group, a 14-member committee appointed to review local mass transit options, voted 13-1 to recommend the Project Connect planning team's Central Corridor – Riverside/Grove to Highland – to the City Council and the Capital Metro board, which will hear the recommendations next week.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell issued a press release announcing the decision. Some excerpts below:

“I am very pleased that the Central Corridor Advisory Group voted overwhelmingly to take a giant step forward toward a high-capacity transit system in Austin, Texas and the region as a whole,” said Mayor Leffingwell. “The Project Connect transit vision is intended to provide real alternatives to the challenges that have made our city the 4th most congested in the country. If we want to continue our robust economy and great quality of life, we need to implement all of the aspects of this regional transportation vision.” …

The release continues: "The Project Team’s recommendation, originally presented in May, features a 9.5-mile urban rail investment that includes 16 stations and 4 park and rides from East Riverside and Grove all the way up to ACC Highland. The plan is estimated to take 10,000 cars off Austin roads daily and provide one more option for residents who travel between the sites in which they live, work and play.'

"This recommendation will be forwarded to the Austin City Council and the Capital Metro Board of Directors for review during a joint meeting on June 17 at 10:00 a.m. in the Austin Convention Center. The Austin City Council is expected to take action on the recommendation during the June 26 regularly scheduled Council meeting, and the Capital Metro Board of Directors is expected to vote on the recommendation on June 23.'

"The Austin City Council has until August to decide whether to put the issue before voters for approval in the form of a transportation bond proposal in November of this year."

The sole CCAG vote against the plan was by AURA representative Julie Montgomery, who argued that the planners had not provided sufficient evidence and methodological information to justify their growth and ridership projections for the Highland corridor. (AURA – no longer an acronym for "Austinites for Urban Rail Action" – now describes itself as a "grassroots urbanist organization.")

Shortly after the CCAG vote Friday, AURA issued a press release rejecting the recommendation. Said AURA board member Susan Somers: “Step one in building a better transportation system is preventing this urban rail bond from making the ballot, and defeating it if it does. As we continue lobbying for an urban rail line we can support, we’ll be pushing hard for improvements to Austin’s bus, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure.”

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