Austin group fighting to get $397 million rail project on November ballot

Before the Austin City Council took the month of July off, they voted in favor of putting Mayor Steve Adler's $720 million "Go Big" Corridor Plan on the November ballot. Plenty of road infrastructure improvements but no rail. 

Adler explained on a conference call the following day.

"It's not part of this package but I think this package helps put the city in the best position to be able to do that if that's something we want to do," Adler said.

So end of the story?  Hopeless for rail?  Not quite.  The Central Austin Community Development Corporation isn't giving up. "It's a long shot but the language is set in August.  We hope to convince the mayor and the council members that the voters deserve a chance to vote on light rail," said Andrew Clements, CACDC board member.

The CACDC was against the last rail package in 2014. "It was a bad route," he said.

Clements says the CACDC is proposing a slightly less than $400 million plan...a 5.3 mile stretch that goes from Crestview Station at North Lamar and Airport all the way to Republic Square at Guadalupe and 4th Street.

"Study after study saying that's where the most roof tops and the most jobs are. That's where the highest transit ridership is now on Capital Metro's bus lines," he said.

J.D. Gins agrees with that.  He's a commissioner with the Urban Transportation Commission.  He feels the CACDC's plan could even go bigger -- but realizes it's just a starting point.

"It encompasses the central corridor that people know.  People want to see rail on Lamar.  That is our busiest street in the central corridor...that's where people go.  So if we put a rail where the density and the ridership will be there, I think you'll see a lot of the transit advocates actually supporting it," Gins said.

And yes, Clements says it's just a starting point.

"The full plan is probably a 21-mile plan that we published that goes to every single council district," Clements said.

Clements says they've determined the line will see 34,000 riders right off the bat. "The 2014 plan hoped to cause development along its route.  This route is responding to density and jobs and development that's already there," he said.

Gins says road projects can only do so much.

Finding alternatives to cars is the way to go. He says if you want rail...write your council member.

"If we can't imagine the city in 20 years without trains then we need to get building them right now," Gins said.

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