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Early Work Happening Now To Build Austin's First Modern Light Rail Lines

 An artist's rendering of a light rail station in Austin.
Capital Metro
Cap Metro's downtown rail station opened next to the Austin Convention Center in October. The commuter rail trains ride on heavy tracks.

Austin's never had modern light rail before. It won't for a while. The Orange and Blue Lines are projected to open to the public in 2029. The rail lines are just part of a multibillion-dollar plan approved by voters in November called Project Connect.

Crews already finished taking soil samples under Lady Bird Lake where a new bridge will carry the Blue Line. Today, samples are being extracted from beneath Guadalupe Street in preparation to build a rail tunnel downtown. To ensure a solid foundation and safe infrastructure, civil engineers need to understand exactly what type of earth they'll be installing bridge piers or boring tunnels through.

Capital Metro recently finished a survey of heritage trees along the light rail routes. Those trees — with a diameter of 24 inches or more — are afforded greater protections under the city code. The agency is doing archeological and environmental assessments. And it’s working toward getting federal regulatory approvals.

Carving continuous rail lines through the city will require Cap Metro to acquire some real estate, said Dave Couch with Austin Transit Partnership, a local government corporation created to implement Project Connect. In some cases, that may result in the displacement of homes or businesses.

“My hope is that there are not going to be a tremendous number of requirements that we will take a full piece of property,” Couch said, adding that they hope to only need “slivers” of land a few feet wide in most cases. “That’s right now in the development, and it’s not something that … that we’re going to have finite answers” until a number of months from now.

The Blue Line will run from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to I-35, turn right on the dedicated bridge across the lake, then turn left to run through an underground tunnel downtown and meet up with the Orange Line at Republic Square. Both trains will run from downtown north to the North Lamar Transit Center just past U.S. 183.

The Orange Line will initially run from Stassney Lane through downtown and north to the North Lamar Transit Center. You can see it all of the Project Connect changes on this map.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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