CapMetro planning to build light rail on Guadalupe

Hannah Ortega, News Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Jan. 18, 2022 flipbook.

After over 20 years of discussion and planning, CapMetro has designs for a light rail line on Guadalupe Street with construction beginning in several years. One plan for the line could completely remove cars from the street while leaving room for bikes and pedestrians.

The rail line is part of Project Connect, a $7.1 billion plan voters passed in the November 2020 election, and will include an orange line and a blue line. The orange line will run from Tech Ridge to Slaughter Lane, and the blue line from the airport to Republic Square, connecting with the orange line and then running north.

Peter Mullan, chief of architecture and urban design for Austin Transit Partnership, said the final design for the orange line could eliminate cars from Guadalupe Street.

“Being able to travel through the city at much faster rates than you will be able to in a car, I think it’s going to just allow the University to be connected and accessible to people from all over the city,” Mullan said.

If cars remain, there will be a rail line and one car lane for each direction of vehicular traffic. If cars are removed, vehicular travel will not exist on Guadalupe from 22nd Street to 29th Street. However, there would still be an area for bikes and pedestrians, and buses could possibly travel on the rail guideway, Mullan said.

“I think for businesses on the Drag, part of our goal is how do we use the light rail, because of this increased access, to make that place a destination?” Mullan said. “We think that there’s an opportunity to really enhance the business activity through some of these transit improvements.”

The rail line team is currently reviewing its design options, a process that includes seeking feedback from the community.

“The University is engaged with CapMetro in ongoing discussions at various touchpoints as CapMetro receives input from a variety of stakeholders and makes iterations to the plan,” University spokesperson Eliska Padilla said in an email.

Government senior Sean Moothart attended part of a meeting about the rail line in December and said the project will drastically change Guadalupe for students.

“If they were to go forward with the plan … where they completely eliminate all car traffic, I think that would make the area around campus a lot more hospitable to walking students, and (there would be) less noise pollution,” Moothart said. “It would really, I think, transform the Drag to make it an environment I would actually want to spend more time around.”

However, Moothart said he does foresee potential negative effects on businesses and housing.

“I think there’s going to likely be pushback from businesses on the Drag that say, ‘We need parking in order to sustain our business,’” Moothart said. “Also with the rail line, there is an issue of displacing existing housing, not so much surrounding the Drag, but up further north. And that’s a huge issue in a city that is already experiencing a housing crisis.”