Public Notice: The 30% Solution: Capital Metro Slowly Rolling Out Next Draft Rail Plan – News
An illustration of one of the deck options. This view is from the north shore of the lake, looking north towards Trinity Street. (Courtesy of Project Connect)
During a series of community meetings over the past month, focused on the various segments of their planned light rail lines, Capital Metro essentially presented in several parts the final draft of its plan – the bones of what will become the 30% design and phasing plan, which means that the planning process will be 30% complete. It features some significant changes from the previous draft – the 15% plan – and if you haven’t really paid attention to it since the initial design was embraced by voters in the fog of the pandemic, well , this primer is for you. In the meantime, there are still a few key areas being discussed and updated over the next month; see this schedule below.
The basic design has not changed much – the north-south orange line up Lavaca, Guadalupe, and Lamar and down South Congress, and east-west blue line runs from downtown to Riverside to the airport – but here’s some of what’s been discussed over the past month or so, much of which is new.
The most recent session last Tuesday evening (“What Kind of Rail Bridge…” Daily News, April 26) covered the new Blue Line Bridge on Lady Bird Lake. It will stretch from Trinity Street south of the Convention Center (and next to “The Confluence” at the mouth of Waller Creek; read more) across the river to the eastern tip of the old Statesman property and Thom’s Market on Riverside. It is also a crossing for bicycles and pedestrians, but the big question is whether it will also accommodate buses; this would raise the price from $150 million to $210 million.
the Southern Congress meeting took place shortly before that; the big news is that the downtown tunnel will now stretch below the river and to S. Congress near Oltorf, nearly tripling the length of the subway system and adding more than $1 billion to the estimated cost. This is largely due to the Corridor with view of the Capitol on South Congress, and something else you may not have known: train lines will have overhead electrical wires, which still don’t show up in most Project Connect renders.
Other meetings over the past month have covered North Guadalupe/Lamar, Crestview Station and East Riverside and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, including new stations in Montopolis and Metro Center, but the biggest was a April 7 report to the city, Cap Metro, and Austin Transit Partnership providing funding and sequencing updates, as well as a report on “Light Rail Project Cost Drivers and Estimates.” Cost Basics: “The three specific cost drivers that impact changes in cost estimates are real estate, inflation/supply chain, and refinement/scope change. ” Taking these in order:
• The acquisition estimate for the real estate required for the two rail lines increased from $250 million to $940 million.
• Inflation is now estimated at 5% instead of 3.5%, adding another $380 million to the budget.
• Design change are however the main cost driver – the tunnel under Lady Bird Lake adds $2.1 billion to the estimate, but also $260 million for public works, $350 million for additional facilities for bicycles and pedestrians and $450 million (!) for structural design, drainage, and easement adjustments that were necessary, in addition to drilling Dean Keeton Street to San Antonio, at the north end of the Drag.
Here’s a cutaway view of the SoCo station, two and three stories below street level (Courtesy of Project Connect)
• Add it all up and the budget for the railway line has increased by 78% – from $5.8 billion to $10.3 billion. (Adding buses on the Blue Line Bridge would add another $60 million, but that’s not a rounding error at this point.) The memo is quick to add that all of this will be covered. cash in hand: along with adjustments to the phasing strategy if necessary, and perhaps some more federal funding from the recently passed infrastructure bill. Thus, no additional tax will be necessary.
Of course, we are only at 30%.
Here’s a look at the rest of the public meeting schedule during this round; staff will present final 30% cost estimates later this summer:
• North Lamar Transit Center/North Line: Monday, May 2, 5:30 p.m.
• Combo Maintenance Installation Update: Tuesday, May 10
• East Riverside/Pleasant Valley: Wednesday May 18
• Drag working group (impacts on traffic): Tuesday, May 24
• South Shore Working Group: Thu. May 26
• Auditorium Shores to Government Ctr. : Tuesday, June 14
These are Zoom meetings; get informed and register on projectconnect.com/get-involved.
the Historic Monuments Commission has its first meeting at City Hall on its new First Wednesday schedule (see “Public Notice: A Potpourri, Plus the World Cup”, News, April 8), and will hear its usual batch of demolition demands and historical designations, but here are a few of interest: Harry’s Cruet is under the wrecking ball (201-213 W. Fourth), but fear not – maybe – the owners would support the redevelopment plan, as it will include a nice new space for them. Meanwhile, a few blocks north, the HLC will consider historic designation for the iron bear (or at least the property it is in).
the Librotraficante Caravan of Forbidden Books will be in Austin this Friday, April 29, working with LULAC Texas, asking the Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick on whether he believes Mexican American history is CRT, and why he killed a vote on a bill allowing Mexican American history and African American history to count toward graduation requirements of high school. To see librotraficante.com for more.
The directory shortage of lifeguards is worse than ever in today’s hiring market, so City Parks is now offering signing bonuses of up to $1,250 for rescuers, and $750 for summer camp staff. They have also broadened their focus beyond traditional teenagers during the summer vacation to also target teachers and “retirees looking for a fun way to make extra money.” They need hundreds of people; see austintexas.gov/summerjobs for more details.
Austin Preservationis annual Visit of the houses is back this Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except it’s “Outside the house– showcasing a selection of the city’s iconic historic spaces, including the newly restored Travis County Estates Courthouse (formerly the Federal Courthouse); the Wesley United Methodist Church; and the rehabilitated Baker School, which now houses Alamo Drafthouse Headquarters. Will only be available at Baker School, and guests must show proof of vaccination to participate in the tour. To see preservationaustin.org for info and tickets in advance.
During Austin Small Business Week, Monday through Friday, May 2-6, the city is offering two dozen free training events for local small businesses, creatives, nonprofits, and co-ops, as well as daily coaching opportunities. individual in business. They are online, but space is limited; see the program and register on austintexas.gov/small business department/division.
Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors and other useful information to nbarbaro at austinchronicle.com.