This afternoon, in my capacity as a Central Corridor Advisory Group member, I sent the following letter to Project Connect staff members Kyle Keahey (HNTB), Scott Gross (City of Austin), Lynda Rife (Rifeline Consulting), Jerry Smiley (URS), Kammy Horne (URS), Steve Roth (Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam), and Javier Arguello (Capital Metro). This letter was a formal write-up of my Grove-to-Dean Keeton data request, which I first posed to Kyle Keahey and Scott Gross immediately following the 5/2 CCAG meeting.
If/when they provide the requested estimates for my compromise proposal described below, I will post them here!
Dear Project Connect Team,
Thank you for the preliminary capital cost and ridership figures you presented at the Central Corridor Advisory Group (CCAG) meeting last Friday May 2, for a hypothetical urban rail line running from East Riverside at Grove up to the planned ACC Highland site. These new details certainly help inform our deliberations as the Austin community works together to develop its Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA).
Like everyone else, I am extremely concerned about the $1.4 Billion pricetag for a Highland-to-Grove route. With Austin voters reeling from a fresh round of skyrocketing property tax estimates and/or struggling under relentless rent hikes, I suspect there is very little appetite for an expensive bond package to fund a rail line with dubious benefits, duplicative coverage, and disregard for neighborhood wishes and the Imagine Austin plan. As you know, most of these problems arise from trying to send the rail line off towards Highland Mall north of the UT campus.
Fortunately, we have other options that might salvage a November rail election. In particular, I would like to propose consideration of a compromise plan that sends our first urban rail segment from East Riverside at Grove up to the proposed Dean Keeton station on the north edge of UT.
Not only will this Grove-to-Dean Keeton compromise be less expensive in terms of up-front capital costs (a shorter initial line, no quarter-billion-dollar tunnel under Hancock Center), it also will ensure lower on-going operating costs by running where Austin already has transit-supportive density and high transit ridership (UT, Downtown, and East Riverside). In addition, ending this first urban rail segment at Dean Keeton returns to Austinites the flexibility to decide that the second urban rail segment should extend the system up Guadalupe and Lamar, our most heavily ridden transit corridor.
So that CCAG, City Council, Capital Metro Board, and the Austin public can fully evaluate this Grove-to-Dean Keeton compromise, I would ask that you prepare the suite of key route estimates for this alternative, including:
- Daily Ridership
- Operating & Maintenance Costs
- Capital Costs
- Travel Time
If possible, please release these estimates by 1:30pm Wednesday May 14, so that we have at least 48 hours to consider your findings before the next CCAG meeting on May 16. As we rapidly close in on a LPA vote, it is absolutely critical to Austin’s future that our deliberations be as informed and data-driven as possible.
Thank you, and please let me know if you have any questions about my compromise proposal or data request.
Julie Montgomery, MPAff