CapMetro nearly doubles costs for Orange, Blue lines as part of Project Connect

CapMetro says it's increasing costs for parts of Project Connect.

The Orange and Blue lines were originally estimated to cost $2.5 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively, based on approximately 5% design. Now, the transit agency says the Orange line will cost nearly double the original projection at $4.3 billion. The Blue lines costs will increase by $600 million to $1.9 billion.

CapMetro says the reason for this price hike is due to several factors, including an increase in inflation, design costs and real estate values. 

The initial real estate estimates for the Orange and Blue lines were $250 million, but at 15% design, there was a "significant increase in the number of affected parcels", says CapMetro. This, along with a 29% increase in real estate values in Austin, has resulted in a net real estate cost increase of approximately $940 million. 

CapMetro also says that the increased annual construction cost escalation from 3.5% to 5% resulted in a potential impact of approximately $380 million. 

The proposed subway tunnel is also projected to cost twice as much, going from $2 billion to $4.1 billion. CapMetro says that they identified potential long-term street closures, along with FEMA flood zones and other technical details that resulted in increased tunnel length from 1.56 miles to 4.19 miles. 

The changes include an extension from 3rd Street to Live Oak, along South Congress, and includes a new underground station at Auditorium Shores and South Congress, increasing the overall Orange Line south tunnel cost to approximately $1.4B for that portion. In addition, a new underground station at Congress, and a pedestrian concourse on the Blue Line has resulted in a potential overall cost increase for the tunnel of approximately $2.1B, above the original $2.0B. 

CapMetro says that the cost estimates provided at this point of the design process are not indicative of cost estimates that will be finalized this summer as part of the 30% design. Those estimates will bring a further refinement of the costs associated with real estate, inflation/supply chain, program progression and scope. 

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