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Cap Metro board fields updates on Project Connect

Monday, June 7, 2021 by Seth Smalley

At the May 24 Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors meeting, board members heard updates on the progress of Project Connect.

Presenters displayed images of partial plans for the Blue Line – called “15 percent design drawings” – and said that they would soon receive similar plans for the Orange Line.

“We’ve been working in conjunction with all of our stakeholders, including the city staff. to go ahead and get comments on those drawings … what the conflicts are. We’re also working towards getting surveys and finishing off the other components that are required under the federal environmental process,” said Dave Couch, program officer for Project Connect.

Borings for the tunnel are also currently underway in the downtown sections of the project.

“We are now starting to work on the other two lines, which will be the extension of the 803 line to Manchaca and also to Oak Hill,” Couch said.

This month, Project Connect project workers are working on the alignment planning of the Blue Line from the airport into a bridge going downtown.

“In the subsequent months, we’ll do the same thing with the Orange Line, and then in July we’ll come back and we’ll focus on the downtown section – the area where there are tunnels and other features like that,” Couch said. The Blue Line, in particular, runs mostly along Riverside from the airport, making a turn over the lake at the Statesman building and ending up at Republic Square.

Other features important to make room for are trees, bike paths and sidewalks.

One roadblock, according to Couch, is that stations must be located on flat ground. “You’re not going to put a station on a hill. It doesn’t comply with ADA standards,” he said.

Project Connect leaders will have a draft environmental statement prepared by this fall, with a final environmental statement ready by the end of next year.

“From there, we’ll be able to get to the rest of the process, from entry into engineering, all the way to obtaining a full funding grant agreement,” Couch explained. The grant agreement will provide more details about the project and a more specific timeline for each aspect.

Community engagement has been a “tremendous success,” given the obstacles presented by the pandemic. There have been three public events so far, and another coming up in July. “That’s when we’ll go ahead and take the full 15 percent designs and get public feedback,” Couch said.

Couch said station spacing for the lines will likely be between a half-mile to one mile apart, “with a half being about a 10-minute walk.”

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