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A peek at how Austin's Blue Line light rail will look over Lady Bird Lake

Rendering of option that crosses the blue line bridge at Lady Bird Lake, but does not have bus access. (Project Connect)

Getting around downtown and Lady Bird Lake will eventually be a rapid trip, but is it a trek that will involve more buses?

Two design proposals are being eyed for a light rail bridge crossing Lady Bird Lake as part of the blue line, a portion of the transit system expansion voters approved in November 2020.

For a design option without a guideway for buses, the light rail would simply travel through downtown and then cross the blue line bridge at Lady Bird Lake. There would also be a shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists. Although costs aren't finalized, the preliminary estimates put this version at $150 million.

Then there's the option with a steeper estimated bill of $210 million. Under this design, there would be a guided pathway running above the bridge for bus services. In practice, it'd allow buses to travel along Trinity Street and cross Lady Bird Lake on a guideway. Then, there'd be a separate corridor for the light rail. Like the other design, this one also includes a shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

In total, the blue line is just over 8 miles and will run from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Republic Square in downtown. From there, services connect to the orange line.

Under the pressures of inflation and supply chain constraints, cost estimates for Project Connect have soared from $5.8 billion to $10.3 billion for the two light rail lines and underground tunnel.

In a memo earlier this month, David Couch, Project Connect's program officer said the program is "not immune to the global and national economic pressures that everyone is feeling."

"Transit, airport, highway, utility, housing, and commercial projects are all seeing cost increases," Couch wrote. "As you all know, Austin is experiencing these impacts at an even higher level than the national average due to the unprecedented growth we are experiencing."


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