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City leaders moving forward with urban rail proposal

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There's no question traffic is bad in Austin and getting worse. One solution may come in the form of urban rail as the city gets ready to hire a project manager to oversee the massive project.

In 2000, voters narrowly defeated a 52 mile light rail referendum.

That project morphed into a 32 mile Capital MetroRail which started in 2010.

Now, city leaders hope to expand transportation options with a six mile stretch of urban rail expected to be completed in 2020.

Running from the Mueller development in East Austin through the University of Texas in Central Austin and ending up in Downtown.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the planning for it is a five to six year process.

He is the chairman of the Transit Working Group, a subcommittee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO.

The six mile stretch is phase one of a larger mass transit project.

It includes several kinds of rails, such as inner city rail, commuter rail, urban rail as well as bus rapid transit, expresses buses, and managed lanes on major arterial roads.

The mayor says he doesn't know when voters will decide on the urban rail project but it won't be in 2013. He doesn't want a repeat of what happened earlier this year. He took urban rail off the ballot because it wasn't ready. He says the project will cost around $100 million.

Local transit advocate, attorney, and blogger, Chris Bradford, said he wants to see details as soon as possible. He's worried the plan could include street cars, which would mean sharing the same existing roads we have now.

"I think the main point of the rail is to increase the capacity through Downtown, by UT, where ever is to increase capacity and you can't do that when a train with 150 people are stuck behind the same cars as everybody else," Bradford said. "What's the point? Otherwise you just have cute transit, it might be great for tourists."

CapMetro CEO, Linda Watson, says the project manager will oversee a larger regional system plan that includes a five to seven county area.

Studies are underway to figure out where the most congested areas are.

She said they will have a better idea of how much the entire project will cost second quarter of next year.

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