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Cap Metro Mulls Airport Route for Phase Two of Urban Rail

Project Connect

Capital Metro voted Monday to move forward with recommendations from Project Connect. The next steps are deciding who will govern its potential urban  rail operations and where some of the funding will come from. The City of Austin and Capital Metro are both major players.

But while Project Connect moved a step forward, there was a push from the Cap Metro board to take a step back.

After dozens of public meetings and no shortage of criticism, Project Connect arrived at a proposed route for its urban rail that would go from Riverside to Highland Mall. On Monday, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez asked for analysis on a whole new route, from Austin-Bergstrom International to UT.

Cap Metro board member Ann Stafford asked Martinez to give his proposal more thought. She said his idea "has not been vetted publicly."

Still, Martinez believes his route could bring more bang for Project Connect's buck. His route would be cheaper since there would be no need for a tunnel. His route would also allow more urban rail to be built with less.

Martinez talked about an 11-mile route versus the currently proposed nine-and-a-half-mile route. And the route would potentially have more funding sources because ABIA could pitch in.

Project Connect's lead Kyle Keahey says going to the airport is a good idea for the future. Keahey says cities like Salt Lake, Minneapolis and St. Paul have done it as second or third projects. "It's not usually your first project," he said.

For now, Cap Metro agreed to consider having an airport route on phase two of the project. And to continue plowing through with Project Connect in its current form. The City of Austin also votes this week on whether to move forward with Project Connect.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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