After slamming the brakes last year on planning for the long-envisioned urban rail system in Austin, city leaders in recent months have rejuvenated efforts to bring a plan to voters by next year.
That urgency, Austin City Council members say, is tied at least in part to what is likely to be unprecedented turnover of the council as it goes from seven at-large members now to 11 district-based members in January 2015. Most or even all of that expanded council will be new to the intricacies of running Austin, and the learning curve could force urban rail onto the slow track yet again if voters haven’t yet approved a first segment costing a half billion dollars or more.
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Ben Wear has covered Austin-area transportation since 2003. In 2007, his reporting disproved claims that Capital Metro’s new commuter rail line would meet its $90 million budget and 2008 start-up date. He has written more than two dozen stories over the past several years on the city of Austin’s planning for urban rail.
CORRECTION: A map accompanying this story has been updated to say that the cost for the first phase of the rail line is estimated at $550 million in 2017-2021, the projected years of construction.