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Project Connect Orange and Blue lines double in cost to $10.3B

The Orange Line will have a station along Republic Square. (Project Connect rendering)

New cost estimates from CapMetro show that two of Project Connect’s light rails will cost nearly double the original price tag.

Project Connect Program Officer David Couch provided updates in a memo on Thursday, which said the planned Orange and Blue Lines will now cost $10.3 billion, compared to the original estimate of $5.8 billion.

The breakdown:

  • Originally expected to cost $1.3 billion + an additional $600 million = $1.9 billion for the Blue Line, which would connect downtown to the airport.
  • With an original cost of $2.5 billion + an additional $1.8 billion = $4.3 billion for the Orange Line, which stretches from north to south Austin.
  • A tunnel, which was originally supposed to cost $2 billion + an additional $2.1 billion = $4.1 billion.

According to Project Connect, it is normal for costs to fluctuate as the process moves along and can be attributed to a few things.

  • The cost of real estate has had a “significant” increase—Project Connect originally estimated $250 million for land but now estimates $940 million.
  • Inflation and supply chain issues included a 3.5% escalation, which is now hovering around 5% due to trends in the supply chain.
  • Design changes have increased the length of the tunnel from 1.56 miles to 4.19 miles, plus new underground stations and a pedestrian concourse.

CapMetro said the new cost estimate will not require changing the tax rate that funds the project but that changes in cost would likely result in project adjustments.

Project Connect expects to complete the Blue and Orange line in 2028.


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