Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Austin Light Rail begins Project Development phase

Alexa Zimmermann

The Austin Transit Partnership entered the Project Development phase for the Austin Light Rail Phase 1 Project, one of the beginning components of Project Connect, late last month after earning a federal grant. 

This phase is part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants New Starts, a grant that funds transit capital investments, like Project Connect.

“This milestone signals federal support for this voter-approved project and brings Austin Light Rail one step closer to delivering billions in infrastructure investments and jobs to Texas,” said Greg Canally, executive director of the Austin Transit Partnership, in a press release. “Our extensive work with our community, along with the expertise and diligence of the ATP team and partnership with (Federal Transit Administration), has allowed us to reach this important milestone.”

The partnership is now eligible for future reimbursement of certain costs incurred during the planning and design stages of the project. This phase is a preliminary step towards securing a final grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration.

“(The grant program) exists to support big transit projects like the one that we’re pursuing,” said Jennifer Pyne, Executive Vice President of Planning, Community and Federal Programs at Austin Transit Partnership. “Entry into project development is significant because it’s an entry point into the program and the first phase. It means (the Federal Transit Administration) has evaluated our project and where we are and feels comfortable that we have a good project to continue to advance.”

The partnership plans to complete the Project Development phase over the next two years, including fulfilling National Environmental Policy Act requirements and advancing the architectural and engineering design of the light rail. These steps will provide the necessary information for the FTA to continue evaluating and rating the light rail project under the Capital Investment Grants criteria and provide project oversight as the phase progresses.

Pyne said the partnership will continue communicating with Austinites throughout the project development stage. She said it’s important for young people to voice their opinions on the Austin Light Rail. 

“Students and younger folks in particular are the ones who are really going to benefit and see the transformation of Austin due to big projects like this one,” Pyne said.

Leland Murphy, a public affairs graduate student, voted in the original election for Project Connect in 2020. He said he is excited to see it beginning to come to fruition and receive federal funding.

“I’ve been following it closely, and with all the various stages of collecting the public input, and finally, see it really starting to get … pick up with the development, it’s going to bring great benefits,” Murphy said. “I know it’s a process to see it enter this new phase. I think it’s really exciting.”

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