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Council approves extra funds for ROMA to study mass transit

Friday, February 29, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The ROMA Design Group will add a study of mass transit options to connect downtown to other parts of the city as part of its work on the Downtown Austin Plan. The Austin City Council on Thursday approved a $250,000 amendment to the contract with the firm, which could present its findings on a possible light rail or streetcar system in about two months.


The study area is roughly the same as the one proposed by Mayor Will Wynn last October, when he called for a public vote on a circulator rail system in November of this year (see In Fact Daily, Oct. 26, 2007).


That study will dovetail with the work being done by the CAMPO Transit Working Group Committee ( chaired by Wynn, which has been meeting each Monday at City Hall to review options for rail in central Texas.


“What we have been picking up is a strong interest in a dedicated-lane system, which would be different from Capital Metro’s previous recommendation of an in-traffic system that had a speed a little bit slower than a bus,” said Council Member Brewster McCracken, who also serves on the committee. “The transit planning we’re looking at will envision a single line running from the destination of Mueller past the Capitol complex, through the University of Texas, through downtown, out to the airport…most likely through East Riverside.”


Since that proposed system goes well outside the boundaries of downtown, the Council needed to amend its charge to ROMA. “We’ve told ROMA to do the engineering and land planning to run a rail line from the airport through downtown, then through the University of Texas campus to Mueller,” McCracken said.


He also wants to make sure that ROMA studies locations where a light rail or streetcar system could connect to Capital Metro’s commuter rail system, which is scheduled to begin service later this year. “There are two options,” he said. “One is to connect down MLK, the second is to go through campus and down Manor Road.”

As part of the study, ROMA will review previous transit studies, conduct its own transportation workshop, brief the CAMPO Transit Working Group, and eventually come up with a cost analysis once local officials identify a preferred technology for the system. “At that point we’ll have some solid engineering information, in addition to all the land planning and zoning that’s already been done, to make sure this rail system is a big success…all the way from the airport through downtown and the university,” McCracken said.

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