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Project Connect is starting to take shape, Capitol Metro announced, and officially beginning with the scoping phase that includes an environmental report that is set to go on from now to 2022. Although that may seem like a long process, the overall project is starting a timeline of 13 years before it is complete.
During meetings to discuss the orange and blue light rail lines of Project Connect, a complete overhaul of the city's public transit system, Project Connect officials detailed the two lines' futures over the next nine years, when they expect a large part of the project to be complete.
Right now, the project teams for the orange and blue lines are entering the environmental impact scoping phase, which they plan to last a year, followed by two years of final design planning and then five years of construction and testing.
The orange line will connect North and South Austin, starting at Tech Ridge, with 22 stops along the way until it hits Slaughter Lane. There will be service every 10-15 minutes, according to officials.
The proposed orange line will reach the following stops:
- Tech Ridge (Park & Ride)
- North Lamar International District
- The Triangle
- UT campus
- Republic Square
- Auditorium Shores
- South Congress
- Southpark Meadows (Park & Ride)
As for the new blue line, service will cover Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Republic Square park downtown with a proposed 11 stops along the way. Just like the orange line, there will be service every 10-15 minutes.
The proposed blue line will reach the following stops:
- Travis Heights
- Austin Convention Center
- AustinDell Seton Medical district
- UT campus
The blue line will follow the same timeline as the orange line and is expected to be complete in nine years.
Before the project moves any further, an environmental impact statement must be developed. The EIS is part of the National Environmental Policy Act and is a crucial step to beginning new developments because it scopes the surrounding area and helps engineer better ways for the project to fit into the community.
As part of the scoping period, AECOM's Orange Line project manager Jerry Smiley said they will be asking for public feedback regularly for the next several years.
Since construction of the new lines will begin at different times, some lines may be done before then, like the red line, which starts construction this year.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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