Cherrywood Hosts Project Connect

Project Connect Forum. Photo by J Potter-Miller

John-Michael Cortez at the Project Connect Forum. Photo by J Potter-Miller

On July 9th, over 20 Cherrywood residents met at Asbury Church to witness a presentation by John-Michael Cortez on the Project Connect plans for increasing mobility in the greater Austin area. The proposal contains a suite of plans, which include: creating several urban rail lines; increasing the number of trains and frequency of runs for the existing Metro Rail; adding more MetroRapid bus rapid transit routes and times; adding express toll lanes on Mopac (in progress, to be completed in 2015); and connecting to a proposed Lone Star rail line with stops in Georgetown, Round Rock, Austin, Buda, Kyle, and San Marcos to San Antonio…and back. All of the proposed plans together are aimed at creating a high-capacity transit system for Central Texas, and all are needed, working together, to deal with our traffic issues.

Mr. Cortez presented a good case why our area needs to plan for alternate modes of transportation:

  • About 110 people move to Austin every day (net), thus adding many thousands of cars to the area roads yearly.
  • Austin is currently #4 in the nation for time wasted in traffic — worse than NYC and Houston. Currently, the average Austin driver spends 42 extra hours stuck in traffic annually.
  • I-35 in Austin (from SH71 to US183) is the number one most congested road in Texas, and seven other roads in Travis County rank on the Texas Department of Transportation’s 100 Congested Roadways list.
  • Pass-through traffic accounts for only about 15% of vehicles traveling through central Austin on I-35 daily.
  • About 150,000 workers commute to Travis County from other counties.
  • Some sections of I35 handle over 200,000 vehicles a day…but not well.
  • 50,000 trips–just for work–occur in Central Austin every day (Central Austin is considered to include downtown, the Capitol, and UT).
  • Work commutes account for only 20% of all trips through Austin daily.

The initial line of the proposed urban rail is expected to take about 10,000 cars off the road every weekday (or to put it another way, to prevent 10,000 additional cars from being added to the roads every weekday).


Urban Rail Rendering

The estimate for building the rail system improvements is expected to be $1.4 billion dollars. That is an intentionally high estimate to allow for unforeseen issues (for such things as the possibility of discovering dinosaur bones during the digging phase, for example). They have estimated that the rail system will generate $23 million in revenue annually. Some $600 million of the project cost will come from local funds through a transportation bond, with matching funds expected from federal grants. Citizens will vote on whether to approve the rail funding this November. Funding can begin after a NEPA (environmental) study. If approved, the initial urban rail line is expected to begin operating in 2021-22.

The initial urban rail route is planned to run primarily in its own dedicated lane from Grove and Riverside across Lady Bird lake, then through downtown along Trinity, pass by the Convention Center, and continue up Trinity to connect close to the State Capitol complex, the new Dell Medical School, the stadium and the east side of the UT campus, cross over to Red River at Dean Keeton, with a stop by St. David’s Hospital, then continue up to Hancock Center (where there will be a stop), then on to the ACC Highland redevelopment area. It is expected that 46,000 residents will live within walking distance of one of the 16 planned stations, and that four Park-and-Ride lots will allow additional access. Trains are planned to run every 10-15 minutes during rush hour, with stops every 0.5-1 mile.

In addition to the planned urban rail, other plans to improve Austin’s transit problems include transit in express lanes on both Mopac and potentially I-35. The system will also rely on bus rapid transit connecting Oak Hill, Westgate, South Lamar, Southpark Meadows, and South Congress to Auditorium Shores and the west side of downtown at the Seaholm plant, with routes continuing up Guadalupe and Lamar, and another route up Burnet Road, all connecting to north Austin (Tech Ridge), Pflugerville, Round Rock, and Georgetown. Additional MetroConnect Direct buses are proposed to connect Hutto, Manor and Webberville with one of the other transit systems in Austin, and the Lone Star Regional Rail is expected to connect San Antonio to all the cities between San Antonio and Georgetown, with an additional leg to Taylor.

Visit the Project Connect website for more details, maps of the proposed routes, news, resources, a blog, and ways to get involved:

For more information, contact Girard Kinney (Land Use & Transportation Committee Chair) and Katie Halloran (Steering Committee Chair).

Marilyn Fenn

About Marilyn Fenn

I'm a long-time Austinite who finally moved to Cherrywood in 2002, where I live on Robinson Ave with my awesome husband, Terry Dyke. I am an abstract painter, with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I've recently retired from my business as a designer (web, graphics and illustration). I designed the present site and serve as webmaster.

Leave a Reply

Upcoming Events
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Thursday 09/20 50%
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Partly to mostly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. High 87F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Friday 09/21 50%
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Variable clouds with thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon. High near 85F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Saturday 09/22 90%
Thunderstorms likely. High 84F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%.