AUSTIN, Texas - In Austin, the closest thing to a transportation tunnel is on MoPac. Technically they're on and off ramps and are very short trips. Under Republic Square, CapMetro wants to build a tunnel, deeper and longer.
The idea is a familiar concept for downtown commuter Donald Smith, "That would be awesome because I use to live in Dallas, I'd commute down into Dallas and I'd be on the DART Rail that they have."
The subway is part of what's called "Project Connect." A massive comprehensive transportation plan that's been in the works for years. "We think this is going to transform the way people live in Austin, and that’s what's so exciting about it," said Smith.
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Transforming transportation could cost almost $10-billion.
The subway would travel 1.6 miles with stations stops lined with retail shops and restaurants. The tunnel, with entrances near the Travis County Courthouse and the Convention Center, would serve the Orange and Blue lines.
Orange light-rail targets a corridor that includes Lamar, Guadalupe, and South Congress.
The blue line links downtown to the airport by way of East Riverside.
The expansion of commuter rail involves new stations like at the Austin FC stadium. As well as launching the green line east to colony park with possible extension to Elgin. Dedicated traffic lanes for high capacity buses are also being designed.
A public vote on whether or not to fund the multibillion-dollar project could come in November. In some parts of Downtown, you can see where old rail lines have been paved over.
One consumer advocate believes that's where they should stay, in the past. "There's absolutely somethings in the project plan that make sense, the rail piece does not, this is 19th-century technology that has quickly become obsolete over time,” said Roger Falk.
New vehicle technology will help traffic flow, according to Falk. He also warned that property taxes will go up if the project is approved. "We've calculated for every billion dollars this thing cost it’s going to raise property taxes on the average of $280 plus dollars each year, and so $10-billion that’s $2,000 over $2,800, that’s just for the capital cost,” said Falk.
A formal presentation of "Project Connect" to city leaders is scheduled for Monday.
CapMetro is hoping to tap into a federal grant program to provide 40% of the cost.