local representatives laying 'tracks' for commuter rail
With all the talk about the
possibility of commuter rail in the area, representatives from
Leander have been working with state and national lawmakers to
make sure the needs of the city are not
Leander resident Jason Anderson of Gold Rush
Realty traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this month with
about 30 other Central Texas lawmakers and representatives to
meet with members of Congress. The team presented its case for
the relocation of Union Pacific freight trains, an essential
step in bringing commuter rail to the area.
The reception was positive,
with key members of the Texas congressional delegation
including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson showing
"I was definitely pleased with the outcome,"
Re-routing the trains, which currently
run parallel to the Mopac corridor in Austin, would not only
increase transportation options in the area but would also
benefit Union Pacific by speeding up distribution, Anderson
"With the population increase over the years and
the number of stops, a train has to slow down when it goes
through Austin," Anderson said. "It slows down the
distribution of freight all the way across the
Relocating the Union Pacific lines would cost
an estimated $500 million, according to Union Pacific, but the
move would open up the possibility of creating commuter rail
from Georgetown to San Antonio, as well as a Capital Metro
line which would run from Leander to Austin, Anderson
"I wanted to make sure we were included in the
scenario because of the economic impact it would have on
Leander as a community and tying it in to the rest of Austin,"
Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Taylor, chairman of
the House Transportation Committee, has said that commuter
rail would be cheaper, faster and less disruptive to create
than light rail.
If the Capital Metro commuter line
receives public support, it would need approval by the Capital
Metro board before being put on the November ballot, according
to Libba Letton, Capital Metro spokesperson.
"If we can
educate the public on the economic benefits that we have, as
far as adding transportation options and the dependability of
commuter rail from Leander going into Austin, I think it will
help as far as the future election when it comes to commuter
rail," Anderson said.
Transportation is a key component
in the strategy the city of Leander is using to plan the
development of approximately 2,000 acres of empty land. The
March 24 edition of Hill Country News reported that the city
recently entered into a contract with Gateway Planning Group,
an urban design group that focuses on transit-oriented
development (TOD), a progressive style of urban design that
uses mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly zoning.
transportation infrastructure includes the future Capital
Metro Park and Ride facility, set for completion by September
2005; the future 183-A toll road, set for completion in about
two and a half years; and the existing rail line.
officials will meet with the seven major landowners and
representatives from Capital Metro Wednesday, April 21, in
Austin to discuss the city's future development.
Transit-oriented development is dependent on the relationship
between the public and private sector, according to Scott
Polikov, principal with Gateway Planning.
So far, that
relationship has been good, according to Mayor John
"Everyone is on board," he
Surrounding city officials have taken notice of
Leander's proposed land use plan and the importance of the
public-private relationship. Earlier this month, the Austin
City Council approved a request to renovate the Seaholm Power
Plant in downtown Austin and make it a private commercial
venture. It is a likely site for a downtown commuter-rail
At the April 1 meeting, Austin City
Councilmember Brewster McCracken said he is impressed by the
way Leander is planning for the future.
"My point was
that Leander is already planning ahead for the commuter rail
line that would start up in Leander by basically re-orienting
their entire development pattern in their city," McCracken
said. "It's time for us to think ahead because Leander, for
instance, is already thinking ahead on this issue."