Austin, Texas/Northwest/North Central Corridor

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Northwest/North Central Corridor

Austin, Texas

(November 1998)


The Austin Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) is proposing to build a light rail system for the Northwest/North Central Corridor of Austin, Texas. Since 1994, a proposed 54-mile rail system has been a critical part of the Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (ATS) Plan for the year 2020, which has been adopted by the ATS, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), and the cities and counties in the ATS area. The FY1999 Annual New Starts Report profiled the locally preferred starter line alternative known as the Red Line Alignment. However, local officials have recently halted planning activity on the Red Line in order to consider other starter line options.

At the present time, three light rail alternatives are under consideration for the Northwest/North Central Corridor. The Red Line Alignment remains a possibility. A major investment study (MIS) conducted by Capital Metro in 1996-97 identified this 29-mile, 20 station, light rail transit line (LRT) from downtown Austin (home to the State Capital complex and the University of Texas) north to the City of Leander. The Red Line Alignment would use the existing publicly owned Giddings-Llano railroad line for approximately 95 percent of the route. The projected cost is $197.2 million ($1997) with a daily ridership of 26,000 in the year 2020.

The MIS also identified a second rail alternative, the Green/Red Alignment, that would run from the downtown area to north Austin, tying into the Red Line and continuing north to Leander. Twenty stations were proposed for the 28-mile Green/Red Line with daily boardings estimated at 51,000 in the year 2020. The estimated cost of the Green/Red Line is $516.7 million ($1997).

Capital Metro’s Board of Directors conducted a four-day rail planning workshop in April 1998. The workshop group, including two dozen national rail consultants, suggested a third starter rail strategy and reinforced the need to work with the community to define options. The workshop group concluded that the starter line should serve the densest destination points and corridors first because of higher expected ridership, despite a higher cost of $700 million ($1998). This option includes most of the centrally located Green Line and would start at Ben White Boulevard in south Austin, continue north through the downtown area, past the State Capitol Complex and the University of Texas, connect with the Red Line and continue north to Parmer Lane or Howard Lane.

As Capital Metro has been exploring alternative rail approaches for the Northwest/North Central Corridor, the agency has also experienced major internal changes. The State legislature made new appointments to the Capital Metro Board, which in turn selected a new General Manager in October 1998. The agency is now re-examining all the rail options described above and is seeking extensive public input. Any decisions concerning these rail options will be placed before the voters in a local referendum to be held in November 1999 or January 2000.


The MIS that resulted in the selection of the Red Line Alignment as the Locally Preferred Alternative occurred in 1996-97. The Federal Transit Administration authorized Capital Metro to enter preliminary engineering and to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Red Line Alignment in October 1997. However, Capital Metro is currently exploring alternative rail alignments. As a result, the project is not rated at this time.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(85) authorizes the Austin Northwest/North Central/Southeast-Airport Light Rapid Transit (LRT) for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $2.0 million for the Austin Capital Metro Project Preliminary Engineering.

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Start
TBD $2.00 million appropriated through FY 2001
State: TBD N/A
Local: TBD N/A

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.