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Austin - March 2010

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Austin — City Rail Plan Advances

Rail Transit Online, March 2010

A recently-released staff report prepared for the city council has proposed two north-south streetcar routes focused on downtown Austin, covering a larger area than shown in previous plans. One line would be a one-way couplet along Lavaca and Guadalupe streets while the other would run on Congress Avenue and San Jacinto Boulevard with connections between the two at Fourth, 17th and 18th streets.

The corridors would link East Austin, the University of Texas and the airport with the central core. There would also be a spur on San Antonio Street west of the university campus. A cost estimate hasn't been completed but a previous single-line scheme had a projected price tag of $625 million in 2008 dollars. Planners said they decided on a two-line approach to avoid the congestion problems being experienced by the Dallas light rail system, which funnels several routes through a single downtown corridor.

The Austin network would have sufficient capacity to expand in several directions as shown in the city's long-range plan. Financing for the initial segment would come from local sources, mainly a bond issue that would have to be approved by voters, but county and state money would also be sought. An application for federal funding, which usually takes years to obtain, would be submitted for future extensions.

The council may decide on whether to move ahead with the streetcar program this summer, including whether to place a bond issue for both rail and road projects on the November ballot.


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