The Austin Urban Rail Project is a proposed light-rail transportation venture aimed at introducing high-capacity transit in the Central Texas area.   It consists of a 9.5-mile track that extends from East Riverside Drive north over Lady Bird Lake through east downtown to Highland Mall north of the city.

The $1.4 billion price tag includes estimated costs for design services as well as vehicle and right-of-way acquisitions.   In an effort to compete in the streetcar arena, light rail manufacturers aim to improve the designs of urban-rail cars to include tighter turning radii for city driving and faster speeds for country commuting.

Many of the questions surrounding the urban rail plan so far concern costs.  The project proposes nine cars, two maintenance facilities, a bridge over the lake, and a tunnel where the light-rail crosses paths with Capital Metro.  The planners expect approximately half of the urban rail’s costs to be paid by federal dollars.  The remaining funding will come in the form of obligation bonds.

Ridership, about eight years after the line opens, would be 16,000 to 20,000 boardings a day for the full 9.5 miles, and 13,000 to 17,000 a day for the Grove-to-Hancock option.


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