A rail plan for Central Texas

Outgoing State Rep. Mike Krusee, one of the biggest boosters of the Trans Texas Corridor in the Lege, is now an advocate for rail in and around Austin.

We should schedule an election now for a rail system based on three elements:

A downtown circulator: Wynn’s initiative to densify downtown has been successful, but could crumble unless people can move around downtown without cars.

The commuter rail stops at the Convention Center. For only $100 million (a lot of money but nonetheless a bargain for transportation infrastructure), an electric streetcar could move people to downtown work and entertainment destinations, the state office complex and the University of Texas.

Use existing rail Lines to Connect More Suburbs: Capital Metro owns track from the Convention Center east to Manor and Elgin. For less than $100 million, and in less than one year, we could provide rail service to desired development zones and to the developments springing up around Texas 130.

Any city in America would love to have such an opportunity: the existing track cuts the cost to a fraction and cuts the schedule by years.

Get to the airport: Capital Metro Chairman Lee Walker had the foresight to insist that our airport terminal be built to accommodate rail. Two routes are possible: a 2½ mile path across the Colorado River to downtown and Council Member Brewster McCracken’s proposed route along Riverside Drive.

Both are expensive, costing more than $200 million and $500 million, respectively. But compare that to building new roads; the Central Texas Turnpike cost over $3 billion.

Speaking to the National Conference of Mayors, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said, “Other governments are aggressively pursuing strategies to unlock the potential of their metro areas. To compete and win in our global economy, we have to show the same kind of leadership. Now is not the time for small plans.”

Nor is it the time for no plan at all.

That’s a pretty good vision, I think. Lord knows, anyone who tried to park during the Democratic Convention would have appreciated a non-car way to get to the Convention Center last month. Krusee’s proposal hits the obvious places, gets the suburbs involved, and uses existing resources, all of which should help build support. The mention of streetcars will probably make Mike Dahmus grind his teeth, but in context I think it makes some sense. I hope people get on board with what Krusee suggests.

By the way, the mention of Obama’s support for rail projects is instructive. Obama has been pushing transit support in a way that we just haven’t seen lately. It’ll be nice to have a President that’s from an urban area and is actually interested in urban policy matters as a priority, won’t it? Krusee link via EoW.

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One Response to A rail plan for Central Texas

  1. JP says:

    As a future Austin resident, I’m happy to see that even Republicans can get on board with transit. Shocking, coming from Georgia.

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