City of Austin Modern Rail – 2017
16.5-mile new line from waterfront north
Hybrid streetcar/light rail operations
$1.3-1.7 billion likely system cost, depending on phasing
Construction could begin in 2014
Not currently funded
Updated Tuesday, Nov 30 at 9:46 AM
The City of Austin wants to build a streetcar system to connect the heart of the city.
I think it's definitely worth it to get people on public transportation,” said Pam Paxton.
Dr. Lisa Jacob lives in the Mueller Development, one of the proposed stops on the route, and says she'd give streetcars a chance.
“I think this is a wonderful way to get us around the city,” said Jacob. “Most big cities have public transportation. I think we need to start looking at ways to get around downtown to make it safer for our kids and families as well as the city.”
It's exactly the kind of mindset Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell wants to hear. He sees streetcars as the city's future.
“If we're going to have another million people come to Austin in the next 30-40 years, we got to find some place to move those people around,” said Mayor Leffingwell.
Plans are for a 15.3 mile route running from Mueller to the University of Texas to the State Capitol and downtown destinations including The Long Center and eventually out to the airport.
“I would definitely ride it to work,” said Paxton. “I work at UT. I would ride it downtown and to the airport.”
“Urban rail will be a way to move around the central city and connect the dots so to speak,” said Charlie Betts, President of Downtown Austin Alliance.
It would not be cheap. Early estimates to build such a system would be more than a billion dollars. The mayor says it would have to be built with federal help. He knows it is an uphill battle . But he says it's worth it.
"There's going to be a lot of hearts and minds that need to be won in order for this to be a success, but nothing is ever easy,” said Mayor Leffingwell.
City council still has a lot of questions about the urban rail proposal. If they vote to go forward, urban rail would eventually have to go before Austin voters in a November 2012 bond election.