Three Project Options

At the May 16 meeting of the Central Corridor Advisory Group (a committee of elected officials and local leaders appointed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell), the Project Connect team presented three different options for a route running from East Riverside up to north of UT ("Project Connect: Three Rail Plans Mulled for CCAG," May 23.)

Project Connect's recommended "Locally Preferred Alter­native" – likely to be sent forward as a whole or in part by CCAG – runs a total of 9.5 miles: from Riverside/Grove on East Riverside, crossing a proposed new bridge over Lady Bird Lake, Trinity Street in Downtown, San Jacinto Street through the UT-Austin campus, up Red River to the Hancock Center, with a tunnel at Hancock, before following Airport Boulevard to ACC Highland. The LPA would come with 16 stations and four park-and-rides (two north, two south). Project Connect estimates that the completed LPA would serve 16,000-20,000 daily riders by 2030, adding nearly 10,000 new transit riders to the system.

But the full LPA isn't the only choice; the team has presented three different options for the route. Each starts at Grove and Riverside and includes the new bridge over Lady Bird Lake. Regard­less of which plan is eventually chosen and at what estimated price, officials expect the FTA to cover about half of the total cost.

A. The Whole Megillah

Scott Gross, urban rail program manager for the city's Transportation Department, said the team is confident in its judgment of the most effective option. "We stand by our recommendation for the entire Locally Preferred Alternative, which has a year-of-expenditure [adjusted for inflation] price tag of $1.38 billion. It's really up to Council to decide how much to ask of that from the voters." (Beyond the base construction price, the team estimates $22 million annually for operations and maintenance of the system.)

In his May 22 presentation, Project Connect team leader Kyle Keahey told Council that the full LPA offers the strongest project for implementation, and the team believes will be a more competitive option for FTA funding, while enhancing multimodal connectivity, reducing automobile trips (specifically via two northern park-and-rides), and maximizing the potential system expansion northward and through other high-capacity transit extensions.

B. Exit at Hancock

Option 2 would run about 7.3 miles, from Riverside/Grove up to Hancock Center. At a cost of about $990 million for construction, plus $17.3 million O&M annually, it would serve about 13,000-17,000 riders daily. The team believes that, while not as effective as the full LPA, a Hancock line would remain a competitive FTA project, enhance multimodal connectivity, and reduce vehicle traffic (one park-and-ride), while deferring some costs until system expansion.

C. Exit at Dean Keeton

Option 3 would run 5.7 miles, ending at Dean Keeton and San Jacinto (north edge of the UT campus). At $820 million for construction and $13.5 million O&M annually, this shorter project would serve an estimated 10,000-13,000 riders a day, and one "sub-corridor" (East Riverside and the core). The team believes it would likely be less competitive for FTA funding, less beneficial regarding connectivity, system, economic development, and I-35 vehicle "capture," since it wouldn't offer park-and-rides.

And if there were an option D, it would stand for ...

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