Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Austin

Research into Urban Rail gains $5M in funding

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Research into Austin’s proposed Urban Rail system was infused with another five million dollars Thursday.

Austin’s City Council approved putting up $1 million to match a $4 million federal grant. The million dollars will come out of the Transportation Department's capital budget.

It will go toward public outreach and revising original plans for the stretch of track between the Mueller Development in East Austin and Downtown.

"It will allow us to refine those alternatives,” Robert Spillar, Austin Transportation Director, said. “It will allow us to take public comment on other alternatives and talk about how that meets or doesn't meet our purpose and need as we move forward."

Spillar says some possible changes could include which lane of the street the tracks will run on to maximize traffic flow. It will also help determine where to build stops for the railcars.

Last June, Austin's mayor felt urban rail was not ready to go before voters. Potential funding shortfalls were at the center of Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s concern.

But Spillar points out about 15,000 people have moved to Austin since the last time urban rail was in the public eye.

"A number of people move to town every day, every week, every year; so there are some people in town who haven't even heard about the project," he said.

Transit Working Group is looking at ways to ensure urban rail could be funded long-term.

If approved, the Urban Rail system is expected to cost approximately $550 million and begin operation in 2021.

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