- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Officials in Austin are recommending a route for a likely electric-powered passenger rail line project that could be headed to Austin voters later this year to decide on a bond issue.

A nine-mile long route unveiled Friday would connect downtown with central and southeast Austin.

A group known as Project Connect - a joint effort of the city, Capital Metro and the Lone Star Rail District - acknowledges a final proposal could mean buses instead of train cars, although rail has been the focus of discussion for years.

The project is likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but the Austin American-Statesman reports (https://bit.ly/1fjp7HR) no price tag has been announced. Officials are assuming federal money could cover half the cost.

But that’s only one of a number of unanswered questions.

The map released Friday shows the entire nine-mile-long route but the bond issue may not pay for all nine miles.

“We can’t answer that yet,” said Kyle Keahey, who leads Project Connect’s rail efforts. “Our perspective is it’s one project. But the question is, how do we phase it? It could be just one phase.”

Besides the overall cost, also uncertain is how much it would cost to operate the system, who would operate it and where stations would be placed.

Keahy said a northern route for the rail still needed additional study. Among considerations is the possibility of an elevated track.

Also to be determined is if the tracks should run on a “mostly dedicated” right of way so the route wouldn’t share its lanes with other traffic. If that’s the decision, then some existing lanes for auto traffic would have to be eliminated.

Another uncertainty is whether the route at Lady Bird Lake just south of downtown would be a bridge over the lake or a tunnel beneath it.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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