Project Connect Expects to Start Phase 1 Construction in 2027

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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Courtesy of ATP

AUSTIN – Austin Transit Partnership says Phase 1 of Project Connect could start in 2027 with trains running in 2033.

Project Connect Phase 1 construction is expected to begin in 2027 with trains running in 2033. According to kxan, this “comes amid the Austin Transit Partnership’s work with the Federal Transit Administration on its grant process. Officials anticipate up to 50% of costs for the first phase of light rail will be supplied via federal dollars.”

ATP’s executive director Greg Canally said they have “initiated that grant program process that would ultimately, hopefully, billions of dollars coming back here to Texas and back here to Austin to invest in Austin light rail.”

The 9.8-mile track, as part of Phase 1, runs from 38th Street to Oltorf Street south to Yellow Jacket Lane in the southeast. This route in Phase 1 was recommended by the Austin Transit Partnership to be built under Project Connect. It is currently expected to cost $4.8 billion, and the schedule is currently on track. 

According to the report, Canally said financial escalations will “reflect the anticipated inflation in the coming years” with future expenditures reaching $7.1 billion in 2033. The $7.1 billion includes $3.19 billion going toward light rail construction and engineering, $1.86 billion toward professional services, $1.11 billion toward a maintenance facility and vehicles, and $937 million toward real estate. Canally said, “we’re on budget and Austin light rail is moving forward.” 

With the FTA grant process, the Austin Transit Partnership is working on releasing a draft environmental impact statement later this year, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. This year, the ATP has hosted community workshops for public feedback on the “station locations and design work.” Now that the Phase 1’s rail alignment and route are solidified, it will turn toward “fine-tuning” the design.

“It’s now almost thinking about it block by block – what it’s going to look like so we can engineer. . . We want to do a lot of that planning and engineering work now, before we do construction, because when we hit construction, we want to hit go,” said Canally.

Additionally, ATP has been working on verifying the funding model for Project Connect. From May 28th to 30th, the Travis County District Court will host a trial “following ATP’s filing of a bond validation petition in February.” The ATP filed the petition in hopes of having its bond program affirmed as a “legitimate funding source.” 

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