AUSTIN, Texas - In November 2020, voters approved a plan to expand commuter rail and light rail service through Austin.
It was no secret Project Connect would be expensive, but, according to an April 7 memo to city leaders from CapMetro, the price just about doubled. The agency provided a cost breakdown for the three main projects.
- The Orange Line estimate was $2.5 billion — It's now at $4.3 billion
- The Blue Line estimate was $1.3 billion — It's now at almost $1.9 billion
- Digging the rail tunnel with underground stations went up over $4 billion
- Total construction cost of $5.8 billion project, is now $10.3 billion
The increase is troubling for D-6 council member Mackenzie Kelly.
"My hope is this is the last time CapMetro comes back to us and says that we've got supply chain issues and we're going to need to raise the cost of the project for us," said Kelly.
CapMetro has cited several reasons for the increase. Real estate, inflation, the supply chain and the scope of the project changed.
As for the real estate buying right, it's gone from $250 million to $940 million. Inflation increased costs by $380 million. The length for the underground tunnel has also increased. From 1.56 miles to just over 4.
The Orange Line is to run down Congress from 3rd to Live Oak in order to address construction closures and environmental issues.
CapMetro promised taxpayers would not get pinched, stating in the memo, "Staff feel it is important to reiterate our working expectation that there will be no additional tax increase to support this program and that the parties will need to meet its commitment to voters to deliver this program with the allocated revenue source."
Despite that, state lawmakers may be asked by Kelly to weigh in.
"Well, any time a vote goes before a municipality and voters vote on that item, my thought would be that if the cost estimates come back to be 20 percent or more than what the voters originally voted on, they should have the opportunity to have a do-over and vote again for or against the ballot measure. A lot of people are telling you they feel misled, and that's something that we need to be able to address in the future," said Kelly.
CapMetro officials said the start and completions dates for some parts of Project Connect may have to be adjusted in order to balance out the funding crunch.
CapMetro nearly doubles costs for Orange, Blue lines as part of Project Connect
Cap Metro's 'Orange', 'Blue' Lines could be very different types of transit for Austin
CapMetro breaks ground on new East Austin MetroRapid route
CapMetro considering transit plans that would remove cars from The Drag
Subway plans proposed for Downtown Austin as part of Project Connect
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