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Renewed Project Connect closes in on milestone

Monday, May 8, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The brain trust behind Project Connect will reveal which specific corridors have made the cut to advance to the next round of high-capacity transit planning on Friday.

Last Wednesday, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Long Range Planning Director Javier Arguello told the City Council Mobility Committee that his team will present to members of the Capital Metro Board of Directors the findings of the first phase of the renewed Project Connect effort.

“We are excited about the results,” said Arguello. “I don’t think there are any major surprises. I think there are big challenges in how we are going to be able to do all these corridors and all this infrastructure and how we’re going to pay for it.”

Capital Metro renewed Project Connect last year to search for new transportation options to move people into, around and out of Central Austin. The effort had been on ice since voters authoritatively rejected the 2014 light rail proposal that the first iteration of Project Connect had birthed.

Since its reincarnation, Project Connect planners have been poring over previous transportation plans and proposals in order to suss out a road map for new transit projects on existing corridors. Planners have stressed that the effort so far is mode neutral, but the common perception is that among its fruits will be either a new light rail scheme, a bus rapid transit project, or both.

As “examples of successful high-capacity transit investments” made around the country, Arguello cited Kansas City’s KC Streetcar (a fare-less downtown circulator), Cleveland’s 6.8-mile HealthLine BRT route and Minneapolis’ still nonoperational BRT route on I-35W.

Planners have divided the pool of potential corridors into three categories: commuter, connector and circulator. Preliminary results ranked I-35 on top of the commuter category, North Lamar Boulevard and Guadalupe Street on top of the connector, and Red River Street as the chief circulator corridor.

Arguello told the Council members that his team will present the phase one findings to Capital Metro’s two board committees on Friday. He explained to the Austin Monitor afterward that the venue, rather than a full board meeting, will allow for a more casual question-and-answer style of conversation.

After the May 12 briefing, Project Connect’s first phase will still be open to public feedback. The full Capital Metro board is expected to vote on whether to endorse the findings at its June 22 meeting.

Image courtesy of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

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