Major Austin transit plan could cost up to $10B
- A planned network of rapid bus and light rail service through Austin, Texas, could cost as much as $10.5 billion, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The network, dubbed Project Connect, would encompass 11 major transit hubs, with operating costs for nine of those corridors estimated at costing $75 million to $177 million per year given ridership forecasts of 120,000 per day.
- Agency officials said the figure is based on building a light-rail system component in each of the plan's 11 targeted transit corridors, which, they said, is an unlikely scenario. Capital Metro has put forth $6 billion to $8 billion as a more probable estimate.
- If Capital Metro approves the final plan, the public will likely have to vote on the project. The referendum would follow environmental approvals and financing efforts, which could happen in 2020.
While Austin officials are intent on beefing up the city's transit systems via rapid bus and light rail, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is planning an $8 billion expansion of a 33-mile segment of Interstate 35 through the city. The project would entail doubling the number of toll lanes but would also include free lanes as part of a double-decker, three-tier design. TxDOT is currently conducting a $20 million environmental study that should be complete by 2019.
Though Capital Metro has seen approval for its plans to boost area transit, the agency's proposals are not without their critics. Light rail projects, especially, have run up against strong opposition in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. Nearly 60% of Austin voters rejected a $1 billion light rail plan in 2014. In November 2016, Virginia Beach, Virginia residents voted down a measure that would have seen a $243 million, 3.5-mile light rail extension.
Nashville voters will decide May 1 whether they will allow four additional taxes to pay for the $5 billion-plus Let's Move Nashville initiative, which includes a $936 million underground tunnel that can handle rapid bus and light rail service. According to The Tennessean, light rail trains along five corridors would enter downtown through an underground tunnel.
- Austin American-Statesman Capital Metro vision could cost more than $10 billion, study shows
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