Proposed Urban Rail Comes With a Hefty Price Tag.
By Jennifer Segelke Jeffers
Austin is experiencing a crisis—a transportation crisis, and Project Connect, an expansive plan and vision for Central Texas’ high-capacity transit system, is looking to solve the problem by incorporating every mode of transportation available.
One of Project Connect’s more ambitious initiatives is Urban Rail, a 9.5-mile route with a $1.38 billon price tag that would run from Highland Mall to East Riverside Drive. Two key construction components of Urban Rail include a bridge over Ladybird Lake and a tunnel under the MetroRail line near Hancock Center at 41st Street and I-35, each costing $100 million and $220 million respectively. With 16 proposed stations along the route, Urban Rail is expected to see a daily ridership of 16,000–20,000. In addition to riders, the project is also expected to bring in between $6.3 billion–$9.1 billion in new development, $27.5 million–$55.2 million in new tax revenue, as well as 14,400–17,700 residents and 14,700–26,800 employees by 2030. The rail is proposed to commence running by 2022, with an annual operations cost of $22.1 million; Capital Metro is set to act as operator and will handle financing all operating and maintenance costs.
Project Connect also includes MoPac express lanes and regional rail lines.