Project Connect recommends $1.38 billion urban rail to combat Austin traffic congestion

Amanda Voeller

City officials recommended Friday that Austin build a $1.38 billion urban rail system as part of Project Connect, a transportation project designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve transportation methods in Austin.

The rail would run from the Highland Park area through downtown and south to the East Riverside area. The study team recommended a bridge be built over Lady Bird Lake, instead of a tunnel running under it, which officials considered.

The 16 proposed rail stops include stops near UT's  Dell Medical School – which began construction in late April, and is set to begin accepting students in 2016 – as well as near the Capitol, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and the northern edge of campus.

Officials estimate between 16,000 and 20,000 people will ride the 9.5-mile rail every day. According to a press release from Project Connect, officials expect the U.S. government will contribute half of the project cost, matching local funding. In September, the federal government granted Austin $11.3 million for the transportation project.

On May 16, officials will outline a funding plan for the project, as well as phasing options for the project’s implementation.