AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- Amid rising costs and potential pushback from lawmakers and other state officials, leaders behind Project Connect on Tuesday unveiled their recommendation for the first phase of Austin's proposed light rail system.
The plan from the Austin Transit Partnership is still subject to approval by the ATP board, scheduled for a June 6 meeting.
"The Austin Transit Partnership is proud and excited to recommend the 38th Street to Oltorf to Yellow Jacket option as we work to create a transit network that propels Austin toward becoming a city that is more affordable and connected. This option best reflects the needs and values of the Austin community and lays the best foundation for future expansions and extensions in all three directions," Greg Canally, executive director of ATP, said. "We heard support from community and advocacy groups for this option as it provides critical connections for people, and we are proud to listen to and take into account that feedback."
As laid out, the initial plan would call for light rail connecting 38th Street south to Oltorf Street, with a secondary leg connecting southeast towards Yellow Jacket Lane. The light rail line will cross Lady Bird Lake at either Trinity Street or South First Street. The plan calls for 9.8 miles of light rail and 15 stations, for an estimated 29,000 average daily riders by 2040.
The initial plan is expected to cost between $4.5 and $4.8 billion. ATP is anticipating roughly half of the Phase 1 plan to be paid for by federal dollars.
The plan includes "priority extensions" on the northern end to Crestview, along with a southeastern extension to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Future extensions, beyond the Phase 1 scope, could connect the system to the North Lamar Transit Center and to Stassney Lane, as well as the South Congress Transit Center.
Once the initial recommendation is approved in June, ATP will move forward with planning and engineering phases, along with a draft environmental impact statement and a financing plan.
The financing portion is expected to come under new scrutiny, following an opinion released by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Legislature's work on House Bill 3899, also known as the "No Blank Checks Act." ATP says the agency is taking the opinion as guidance.