LEANDER, Texas - CapMetro and local leaders cut the ribbon in Leander Wednesday on a $6.88 million "double-tracking" project, the first to be completed under the Project Connect transit expansion plan.
"It's transformational and just the very first tip of the iceberg," said CapMetro board member Eric Stratton.
Double-tracking is exactly what it sounds like. After a year of construction, the roughly 15-mile section of the Red Line from Leander to Lakeline now has two tracks instead of just one.
"These improvements to the red line are crucial component of the project vision and will benefit the community starting today," said Veronica Castro de Barrera, chair of the Austin Transit Partnership.
CapMetro says double-tracking will help ensure trains are on time because, quite simply, they can pass each other.
"It allows us when things go a little wrong, to recover our schedules faster," said CapMetro interim president and CEO Dottie Watkins.
"So we shouldn't see the sorts of slowdowns and disruptions that we've seen in the past," said Leander Mayor Christine DeLisle.
While the double tracking is expected to improve train reliability, CapMetro says they won’t be adding any new trains to the schedule, at least not yet.
"We're not doing that immediately as we have this other construction ongoing on the line. But as these projects come online, we will add trains to the system and be able to run more frequently and more reliably," said Watkins.
With the upgrades, local leaders are optimistic about the economic benefit for the whole region, by making rail travel between Downtown Austin and points north, just a little easier.
"Well, let me tell everybody in Austin that Leander is the place to be," said DeLisle. "Come up here and spend some of your tax dollars here, costs less than spending it in Austin. And we'll welcome you."
The next section where double-tracking will be added is in North Austin near Q2 Stadium. That is set to be done along with the highly-anticipated McKalla Train Station, which is slated to open in time for the 2024 Austin FC season.