A proposed urban rail system would have another 10 miles of track and reach into more parts of the city under a plan offered by city transportation planners.
The original plan proposed electric-powered rail on 16.5 miles of track from the Mueller development to downtown Austin, then east to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport through one of two routes, one of which would be on East Riverside Drive.
The new plan would extend the track to the southern end of South Congress Avenue, the western end of Riverside Drive, west to MoPac (Loop 1) near West Fifth and West 35th streets, and north to U.S. 183. It would bring riders to St. Edward’s University, Southpark Meadows, Long Center for the Performing Arts, the Triangle development, the Seaholm development, Seton Medical Center and other destinations. And it would connect with the MetroRail Crestview and Hancock stations, providing a more extensive rail network.
If approved, rail would one day provide access from our area to downtown offices, three hospitals, two universities, two performing arts centers, the airport, and suburbs from far South Austin to Leander. Once built, rail corridors tend to attract even more services and businesses. Chicago, Dallas and even East Austin are good examples of that.
Rail would also cost money, but so do roads, car insurance, bike lanes, sidewalks and other transportation-related necessities. The current projected cost of $1.3 billion is in the same ballpark as the Texas 130 toll road from Georgetown to South Austin, which has done little to take cars and trucks off Central Austin roads. A $150 million to $250 million rail bond proposal is being considered to cover the first phase of the new rail network. Also proposed is a new $100 million bridge across Lady Bird Lake reserved for trains, buses, bicycles and pedestrians. That bridge would be built near Waller Creek, which is being revitalized from the lake to the University of Texas.
A route that reaches more parts of the city and serves more residents is more likely to get voter support if a rail proposal goes before the city in the November bond election. Urban rail is also a major component of the city’s vision for the future of the East Riverside Corridor, which is undergoing a redevelopment plan.
See an Austin American-Statesman article and map describing the proposed route.