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Mayor Leffingwell Leads Proposed Urban Rail Tour

Updated: Wednesday, July 30 2014, 06:37 PM CDT

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell takes KEYE TV on a tour of the proposed Urban Rail Route. The Capitol Metro bus tour comes one week before Austin City Council votes whether to put the $1 billion bond on the November fourth ballot.

The bond proposal would dedicate $600 million to build Urban Rail. The other $400 million would go toward road improvements across the city. It could mean an extra $15 per month on your tax bill.

Mayor Leffingwell acts as tour guide explaining the route from southeast Austin along Riverside, through downtown, and up to ACC's Highland Campus.

"I don't have to tell you that we're a very successful city in terms of economic development, population growth and quality of life," said Leffingwell. "But, our biggest challenge right now is our transportation network."

Organizers with Project Connect considered the Lamar/Guadalupe corridor for the first phase of the proposed Urban Rail route, but ultimately decided to start in the East Riverside sub-corridor. The Project Connect: Central Corridor Study showed the East Riverside and Highland corridors are far more congrested than the Lamar sub-corridor.

"We went through almost a year long data driven process to find the best possible route," said Leffingwell.

The southernmost Urban Rail station for the proposed first phase will be the Grove followed by the Pleasant Valley station on East Riverside. From there, the rail will pass five of the 16 proposed stations which will be built into the median of East Riverside.

"One of the key elements we decided to tackle was crossing Lady Bird Lake." Urban Rail Project Lead, Kyle Keahey says they plan to build a new bridge outside TXDOT on East Riverside to the Austin Convention Center on Trinity downtown.

"We could utilitze an existing bridge, but it would've required the elimination of two travel lanes on either First or Congress," said Keahey.

Urban Rail would then enter UT's campus, head north on San Jacinto before exiting through Red River. The final stop would be ACC's Highland campus.

"We need to do something big and that's what we're proposing," said Leffingwell.

Keahey says they're only about two to three percent through the design process which is normal.

What's the biggest road block? "I think it has to do with convincing voters all over the city that no matter where they live in the region, actually that there's something in it for them," said Leffingwell.

Once Urban Rail has voter approval, Mayor Leffingwell says there will be three years of engineering and environmental studies before it's submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). If all goes well, it should be up and running in 2021.

Click here for more information on Project Connect's proposed Urban Rail.

-- Deeda Payton, KEYE TV News.

Mayor Leffingwell Leads Proposed Urban Rail Tour

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