SAN ANTONIO – Already in limbo after Union Pacific decided against allowing commuter trains on its tracks used to carry freight, Lone Star Rail has been removed from Austin’s long-range transportation plan.
The decision was made Tuesday by the board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
However, its counterpart in San Antonio, the Alamo Area MPO, hasn’t reached that point, although its board will take up Lone Star Rail at its meeting Aug. 22.
Linda Vela, AAMPO spokesperson, said Union Pacific’s announcement earlier this year does not mean the project can’t move forward.
“It just means it might move forward differently,” Vela said.
But without railroad tracks, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has said in the past, new lines could cost $2 billion.
Joe Krier, who represents District 8 on the San Antonio City Council, said even so, he wants to see both MPO’s work together.
“Sit down, close the doors and say we’re not coming out until we figure out a way to move forward,” Krier said. “Shame on us if we don’t.”
“I think both MPOs are taking stock of where we’re at, where we’ve been,” Vela said.
She said they’ve “pressed pause” as they re-evaluate where to go from here.
Vela said a multimodal solution, using other forms of mass transportation, is needed given the traffic congestion on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin.
“Are the benefits worth the cost? I think many people would say, yes,” Vela said.
The councilman said no doubt it will take time and money, but the region’s economy and quality of life are at stake. “We’re going to start losing jobs long term when businesses find out it takes longer to drive from Austin than it would to walk from here to Austin.”