The $7.1 billion Project Connect transit plan was approved on Nov. 5 by voters in Austin, Texas. This plan, which requires a 1.6-mile tunnel through the downtown section of the city, entails the use of property tax income, with 45% coming from federal funds to finance the project. The measure so far was passed by a 58-41 margin.
Project Connect is expected to include the following features:
1 – North and South Austin, the terminal, downtown and Colony Park can be connected by a new rail line.
2 – To maximize on-time efficiency, a transit tunnel downtown will isolate rail from traffic.
3 – Expanded bus service within several communities with an all-electric bus fleet, new routes and on-demand circulators.
4 – Nine new Park & Rides with expanded links and new amenities in the city.
The Downtown Transit Tunnel would isolate the new light rail service from street traffic, allowing downtown commuting to be easier, faster and more efficient. Underground stations in Republic Square and other downtown sites will be linked to the new rail system. Such stations are scheduled to have services such as shopping, bars, a transit store and a service center.
Connections to the new rail system and extended bus service will be provided by the tunnel stations. The stations would provide a modern public space for transit customers and the surrounding area, in addition to a transit way. The stations will be temperature controlled and facilities such as public art exhibits, live music entertainment venues, stores, coffee shops, restaurants, free Wi-Fi access, convenient seating, public toilets and surveillance cameras are expected to be included.
One of the taxing bodies to which land owners pay property taxes annually is the City of Austin. With the approval of Proposition A, the Austin Transit Alliance will be allotted 8.75 cents of the City’s property tax rate income to finance Project Connect implementation. The Project Connect portion of the City’s property tax rate, is currently approved by residents, and will become part of the City’s property tax rate next year.
The initial investment covers a total of 27 miles of rail service and 31 platforms, including the downtown tunnel and stations.