Project Connect: A look at the final plan

The final plan for the Project Connect light rail system in Austin was recently announced, with a route about a third the size of the original plan.

The $6 billion plan still has to be approved by Austin City Council, which will be voting on it next month. 

Construction is expected to take eight to ten years.

Greg Canally with the Austin Transit Partnership speaks with FOX 7 Austin's John Krinjak on the newly-unveiled route and the impact he hopes it has. 

Greg Canally: Austin Transit Partnership is really proud to unveil our Austin light rail implementation plan, which includes a phase one light rail system going from 38th Street through downtown down on Congress to Oltorf out to Riverside. This is an on-street two line system, and it's a light rail system that Austin's been talking about for years. And it's a system that connects jobs, it connects destinations, and it connects to affordability, and it connects Austin to each other. So we're really excited about after a fantastic community engagement process over the last six weeks that we are here to recommend a light rail plan that really reflects the community input that we've heard over these last weeks.

John Krinjak: I know you get a lot of feedback, but what was it kind of ultimately that led to this recommendation? Obviously, we know that there were, what, four or five or six kind of different versions. How did we get from those narrowing it down? 

Greg Canally: Yeah, it's great. I think two things. First of all, it's rooted in expertise and planning and engineering and financial experts to make sure that we will live within our means. But also the community input.

John Krinjak: What would you say to people who might be disappointed that this doesn't go to the airport? You know, in the initial phase.

Greg Canally: We were able to put in here a priority extension. We heard loud and clear from the community the desire to get out to the airport and if certain conditions are met, certain financial conditions, if we can find additional funding with either local partners or the federal government, we have an opportunity to, in part of this phase, expand out to the airport, as well as going a little bit further north up to Crestview.

John Krinjak: I also asked Canally if he's concerned about criticism and challenges to Project Connect coming from Republicans in the Texas legislature.

Greg Canally: Well, I would say this, that the Austin voters, the local voters, almost 60% of them approve moving forward on this. And, you know, Austin is one of the economic engines here in the state of Texas. And we want to keep creating jobs. We want to create affordable jobs. And we are going to keep moving forward on advancing the Austin light rail for on behalf of our voters.

John Krinjak: What do you hope the impact of this will be as we head into the years ahead, as Austin obviously continues to grow?

Greg Canally: Well, I think first and foremost, we're going to be connecting to existing jobs, over 100,000 existing jobs. We're going to connect to overall 200,000 new jobs as the system and Austin grows. I think this gets to be a catalyst for a different type of affordable and sustainable growth. We've seen that around the country. I think Austin, though, can do it in a really special and unique way because that's how we do things here