Project Connect: Designs give first look at blue line in downtown Austin

The blue line crossing will be west of the I-35 bridge, near the UT Boathouse, just downstream from the Congress Ave Bridge. 

Animation provided by CapMetro shows light rail trains crossing Lady Bird Lake. Trains are to roll next to new hike and bike paths, and then down into an underground station under the downtown Austin skyline.

"I think this in some ways is this is a little bit of a teaser about what the opportunity or what the possibilities are," said Peter Mullan the Chief of Architecture and Urban Design for Austin Transit Partnership.

ATP is the group building Cap Metro's ambitious transit plan known as Project Connect

The focus is on the Blue Line. Its 8 miles long and links downtown to the airport with light rail. As part of the bridge design process, CapMetro has provided two design concepts. Option B includes dedicated lanes for bus traffic.

"So we're, this preliminary engineering process that we're in right now is all about getting feedback from the community. And one of the pieces of feedback we got was, what about busses? Could this bridge also accommodate busses in addition to light rail and pedestrians and cyclists? And we thought that is a really good thing for us to explore. And so we went and we explored it. And so now we have two options and it's we could have a really good, robust, thorough conversation about what the best direction to go in," said Mullan.

Under the current plan, part of a dog park along Riverside Dr. would be clipped by the Blue Line. 


Adding buses to the Blue Line Bridge will increase cost from $150 million to $210 million. Those who oppose Project Connect have argued the rail plan costs too much and will not do enough to address the gridlock problem in Austin. Supporters argue Austin needs to expand mass transit and the longer it’s delayed the more it will cost. 

Others just want a new travel option. 

"It would be nice to just go over here, and zip over there, versus tolls more traffic," said Austin resident Devon Greene.

The overall price for Project Connect has almost doubled to $10 billion. The recent spike with inflation is blamed for that. 

FOX 7 asked Mullan if taxpayers should worry about the risk for more price hikes.

"I think the message is certainly don't panic. Right. But at the same time, you know, we have to acknowledge the environment we're in. And if you talk to economists, it doesn't look like Austin has any intention of slowing down any time soon. So on the one hand, it's another reason why we need to build this transit infrastructure, right, to serve this growing community. But it also means that we are going to probably likely be under a continued cost pressures as the program develops," said Mullan.

A full public hearing on the Blue Line is set for September. The goal is to start construction on Project Connect's light rail system by 2025.