Capital Metro shifts light rail design to stretch underground tunnel under lake

Plans are taking shape in Austin for several new public transportation lines that form Capital Metro’s Project Connect network with design work reaching the 15 percent milestone for the Orange light rail line.

After developing several proposed alternatives, Capital Metro planners released plans for the Orange Line that include six below-grade stops at Republic Square, Congress Avenue, Government Center/Capitol West, the Rainey Street/Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, Convention Center/Brush Square, and the Auditorium Shores stations.

Scoping for the Orange Line includes an underground tunnel and multi-modal transit hub at 4th Street in the downtown and Capitol area. Located at the northwest corner of Congress Avenue and 4th Street, the Congress Avenue station will provide access to all future rail lines.

Planners said the underground portion will now extend below Lady Bird Lake rather than over a bridge due to cost considerations in building a vertical climb in a short distance.

South of Lady Bird Lake, an underground station would be built at Auditorium Shores with two options for how the line will travel above-ground.

A short tunnel option calls for a light rail portal at Nellie Street and Academy Drive and a surface station on South Congress, and a longer tunnel option would include an underground station on South Congress and a light rail portal at Leland Street and Live Oak Drive.

Updates to the Orange Line and other Project Connect initiatives are set to be presented to the Capital Metro board on July 19 and the Austin Transit Partnership on July 21.

The Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, and the Austin City Council are scheduled to approve a joint partnership agreement for Project Connect at a special meeting on October 29.

This story originally published by Strategic Partnership.

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