After years of planning and consideration, a proposal to build a commuter rail line from Georgetown to San Antonio is now dead. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted last night to remove the Lone Star Rail District from its long-range plan.
The project was derailed in February when Union Pacific decided to end negotiations. The Lone Star plan hinged on using the company’s rail line through the center of Austin and along Mopac, while helping Union Pacific find right-of-way and an alternate route to the east of I-35.
From its beginnings 19 years ago, Lone Star Rail managed to unite local transportation agencies, cities and counties, the state legislature, the governor and voters – only to lose steam after February’s decision.
The project envisioned creating a commuter rail line that ran along existing rail through central Texas. In 1997, the legislature authorized the creation of the Austin-San Antonio Inter-Municipal Commuter Rail District, that would later become Lone Star. Voters approved a statewide proposition in 2005 allowing the district to relocate Union Pacific's freight railway. Lone Star would then be able to use the line that runs through the center of Georgetown, Austin, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, New Braunfels and San Antonio. The Legislature even created a bank account for money that could be used to build a new line outside of the urban core for freight trains. But the account remained empty.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler says some kind of mass transit between Austin and San Antonio is needed, and that maybe no longer focusing on the Lone Star Rail line will help the two cities figure out a more direct path to finding a solution.
The Austin Monitor is reporting the $9 million that CAMPO had earmarked for Lone Star will now go toward finding an alternative form of transit.