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Tuesday, February 26, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

New downtown rail station to break ground early April

After carving away the excess from Downtown Station plans in January, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded a construction contract of $36,865,160 to Austin-based firm Jay-Reese Contractors Inc. at its Feb. 25 meeting.

Jay-Reese was one of three firms to respond to Capital Metro’s request for proposal in August 2018. The firm has completed a number of infrastructure projects in Austin, from Pfluger Bridge over Town Lake to utility and concrete work at the Seaholm District’s former power plant. The firm has also done several rail projects around Texas.

Jay-Reese President Ron Albee said the firm was honored to be recommended for the landmark project. Although the project is extensive, he said he is confident both in the professionals representing his firm and those at Capital Metro. “I’m confident that at the end of the project we will all gather and dedicate it and be proud of what we accomplished,” he said.

Capital Metro’s portion of the total will be $28.68 million in the absence of complications, which will partly come from a $50 million Texas Department of Transportation grant that Sen. Kirk Watson and Rep. Celia Israel helped the agency secure. A little over $2 million will be paid by the city of Austin for utility betterments and $6.14 million will be allocated as contingency.

Though Capital Metro’s request for proposal suggested a 10 percent small business utilization target, Jay-Reese will be contracting out 20 percent of the project to local small, minority- or women-run businesses.

Capital Metro Vice President Kenneth Cartwright said the project will require construction of a temporary station and temporary rerouting of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. The temporary station will be built along the tracks east of Red River Street. Cartwright said the agency has worked with Austin Transportation and the Bicycle Advisory Council to establish a temporary bike route until the station is complete.

As part of a separate project, Jay-Reese will begin constructing an additional rail track between the Plaza Saltillo Station and the temporary downtown platform in June. There will be a five-month interruption in service to downtown until the temporary platform is finished, during which Capital Metro will be operating shuttles between Plaza Saltillo and Downtown Station as well as supplemental express bus service.

The agency will be running ads and posting on social media to inform customers of the service change. Updates will also be available at the Capital Metro website and at MetroRail stations.

Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke said the second track and new station are a necessary part of Austin’s transportation future that will allow more rail cars to run along the Red Line and accommodate potential rail traffic along Project Connect’s Green Line from downtown to Elgin.

Clarke also expressed enthusiasm for a potential connection from the Project Connect high-capacity Blue Line to the Downtown Station in the future.

“If we did run a Blue Line from the airport down Riverside, we envision that coming and linking up with this station, a big multimodal station,” he said. “It might be a different topography … but this is to me the first shovel in the ground in how the potential Project Connect could go about connecting our city together.”

Capital Metro Board Chair Wade Cooper said everyone involved deserves special recognition given the site’s limitations. In addition to the nearby Austin Convention Center, Hilton Hotel, Brush Square, and Lance Armstrong Bikeway, Cooper said the process has also involved working with the city and the needs of landowners surrounding the site while continuing to provide service for Red Line users and minimizing the impact to vehicle traffic. Half kidding, Council Member Delia Garza said, it “sounds like a standard city zoning case.”

If all goes according to plans, construction will begin in April and the Downtown Station will be completed in early spring 2021.

Cooper said, “What we have was always going to be a temporary station and what we passed was almost a demonstration project. But today, as our president said, we now are doing the things to make this a real robust rail line that can serve our community proudly into the years to come.”

The contract was approved 7-0. Williamson County Commissioner Eric Stratton was ill and unable to attend the meeting.

Rendering courtesy of Capital Metro.

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Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

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