Council hears realities of urban rail
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Urban rail is getting closer to being on the ballot this November, but still has some obstacles to jump through.
Tuesday morning, The Austin City Council heard during its work session from leaders that have been working on the urban rail project. They learned what the city will get from the rail in return for $275 million from taxpayers.
Right now, it will take about $550 million for the first phase, half of which will come from federal grant money, the other through bonds approved by voters.
The first phase would go from the Mueller Development near 51st Street and Interstate-35 and wind into downtown, hitting several different neighborhoods along the way.
The second phase would begin in a few years, and would cross the river to Pleasant Valley and Riverside Drive.
However, crossing the river brings a wealth of new problems and questions.
“When we are talking about potentially crossing the river, there are a lot of issues,” Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar said. “We expect the public wanting to have extended conversations — what does that new bridge potentially look like? Why can’t we use the Congress Avenue Bridge? What about bats? What about the water environment?”
If voters approve urban rail this year, construction would begin likely around 2017, and wouldn’t be completed for the public until about 2021.