Cap Metro Project Connect in gear for 2020 Vote

Buses routes in gridlock and a modified freight line to the Northwest are currently Austin’s only major mass transit options.

With a unanimous vote, Cap Metro’s board of directors Monday decided to ramp up its project connect plan which was launched two years ago.

"The message we are sending today, to our colleagues at the city, the county, to TX DOT, CTRMA, to the surrounding counties and jurisdictions is, let’s work together,” said Chairman Wade Cooper

The Project Connect proposal - according to a promotional video is not about eliminating congestion but to offer viable ways around it. Commuter rail is a key part of the plan.

Most of the new trains would be fully electric like those on a blue line from the airport to downtown. The Green Line - to Manor and Elgin -would run on existing on existing tracks using similar trains to those on the red line.

A North-South Orange Line -- through U.T. and into south Austin is also in the works. 

As part of the board action; Cap Metro wants Austin to protect corridor right of ways. Mayor Steve Adler agreed, that’s critical if the plan is to work.

"If its stuck in traffic with the cars, no one is going to get out of their cars, and not everyone is going to get out of their cars, anyhow, but we are not going to get anyone to do it until we have dedicated pathways,” said Mayor Adler. 

The plan includes rapid transit buses and self-driving cars. Nothing is set in stone. There's no cost estimate although the idea is to have a public bond vote in late 2020.

State Senator Kirk Watson (D) Austin, who has seen several gridlock busting ideas come and go, admits this new pitch is big.

"I'm very excited that our community is about to take a very big step in what we need to do, which is, we need to think big, about how we are going to slow the growth of traffic congestion and we can’t do it with a roads only approach,” said Watson.

With the vote Monday, Cap Metro’s Board authorized staff to start the search for a contractor. That person will not build the plan but is to manage the permitting and design work.

Public input will continue to be taken, and as a result, routes and types of transit modes could change before a vote on funding takes place.

There’s no completion date for the Project Connect plan but if approved it will be done in phases. I was also said that the Orange and Blue Lines are the backbone of the plan, and are top priorities.