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Mueller neighborhood gets first look at plans for Urban Rail system
Friday, April 8, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves
Residents of the Mueller development got their first chance to weigh in on actual plans to push a rail spur out to the redeveloped site of the city’s former airport Wednesday night.
Of course, those plans are no more tangible than a draft environmental impact statement right now and won’t materialize without voter approval of a massive transportation bond issue next fall. Still, it brings the concept of Mueller as a 700-acre transit-oriented master-planned community full circle.
Rail access was Mueller’s calling card almost as soon as plans to re-use the former airport began in earnest in 1997. Jana McCann, the city’s former urban design officer and a current rail consultant, remembers
Gordon Derr, assistant director of the city’s Transportation Department, points to the connectors between the Red Line and the Capitol complex and
“By that time, we could have 10,000 people out here, maybe more than that,” McCann said. “That’s what we always said, 10,000 jobs and 10,000 people.”
McCann and Jim Adams, who share McCann Adams Studio, estimate that Mueller currently has about 2,000 residents and maybe 3,000 jobs. While the site is home to the Dell Children’s Hospital and SEDL research center, the
The current environmental impact study on the proposed 16.5-mile urban rail line is expected to take up to 18 months. Julieann Dwyer of the Federal Transit Administration’s
“We try to capture as much information as possible to get a complete overall picture of the impacts of the project,” Dwyer said. “We look at what they have done, the methodologies they’ve used for arriving and obtaining information, and we determine whether those match and meet our requirements.”
Derr uses the example of the
The urban rail line will be far different from Capital Metro’s Red Line, a more nimble arrangement of smaller cars with tighter turn radiuses. Critics have called the proposal, which could cost upwards of $1.3 billion, no more than a glorified streetcar system, but transportation consultant Glenn Gadbois called the downtown rail line one of the few serious alternatives to densify
“Downtown is the economic engine that supports the region, a magnet to attract new business and bring in new revenue, but it’s choking upon itself,” Gadbois said. “We don’t have the traditional option of just bigger and wider roads here. We can’t afford to waste space in that way, and as a consequence, rail makes sense to start providing some way to get in and out of the central hub.”
Gadbois, unlike urban rail critics, does not consider the price tag to be a deal breaker for downtown rail. Downtown rail can circulate around the core and help deliver from outlying areas for about $1 billion. A fix for Interstate 35 through
“We can piddle around the edges, and add a managed lane to MoPac, but what are your options for high capacity change?” Gadbois asked. “What can we do that will make the most sense for addressing our needs?”
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