June 8, 2023 - TRA Newswire  - 

The Austin Transit Partnership announced the first phase of Austin Light Rail, running from 38th Street to Oltorf to Yellow Jacket with additional priority extensions, has been approved by all three partners including the Austin City Council and the CapMetro Board of Directors. The recommendation was initially one of five options revealed in March, and was selected after planning data analysis, engineering evaluation and community dialogue came together to identify this plan as the path for light rail that serves the Austin community.


“We’re thrilled that we have been approved to move forward with this project, and continue with transforming the mobility landscape in Austin,” Greg Canally, executive director of Austin Transit Partnership, said. “ATP has been community-minded throughout this entire process, and we thank both City of Austin and CapMetro for approving the recommendation and in doing so, validating the feedback from our community. This is a big win for Austin, and now that we have been given the green light, we are jumping into the important work to make this vision a reality.”

The vote follows a close call during the Texas legislative session that ended last month. House Bill 3899 would have required a second vote from Austin voters before debt instruments could be issued. The bill did not pass. The project was also marred by an opinion recently released by then Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who weighed in that Project Connect's funding model may be illegal under state law (Paxton is currently suspended as Texas AG pending a Senate impeachment trial scheduled for this summer). In another rail issue, Paxton inserted an opinion in a Texas Supreme Court hearing last year claiming that Texas Central Railroad's high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston lacked eminent domain authority to purchase land needed for the railway. The Texas Supreme Court shot down the AG's claim. 

The Austin Transit Partnership was created as the result of a 2020 election in which the voters approved Project Connect and the formation of an independent entity responsible for overseeing the program. Since its inception, it has been working closely with CapMetro and the City of Austin to create a plan for Austin’s first light rail system that integrates well into the existing transit system while planning for the future. The details of the recommended light rail plan are available on ATP’s website, www.atptx.org.


“The people of Austin have led the way to building consensus around this first phase of light rail, which will shape our city for generations to come,” Mayor Kirk Watson said. “Thanks to their vision and support, we can now move forward with a strong foundation for the future and a solid partnership that is committed to delivering light rail to our community.”

Now that the plan has been approved, ATP is taking steps to implement Austin Light Rail. An independent environmental impact study will be conducted, and ATP will continue strategizing with CapMetro, community leaders and the business community to ensure that the project advances to enhance the mobility landscape for Austin and Central Texas.

Austin leaders on Tuesday gave an official thumbs-up to the city’s massive rail line project just two weeks after the plan was revealed to the public.

Read additional: https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2023/06/transit-and-city-leaders-agree-on-final-plan-for-austins-light-rail-system/