Project Connect Previews Light Rail Vehicle Designs

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Residents of Austin are getting their first look at preliminary light rail designs under Project Connect. These come ahead of 30% updated design and cost estimates that officials are expected to release this summer, which will provide a more accurate – albeit still preliminary – overview of the vehicles’ overall costs and design features.

The Blue and Orange lines are the two light rail-centric systems under the multi-billion dollar Connect project. In total, the two light rail lines represent 28.2 miles of service within the Project Connect system. Their designs vary from the Red Line, a 32-mile regional rail service that will connect to light rail lines under the scheme.

Light rail vehicles

Early designs feature five passenger doors on each side of the wagon, along with cargo space allocated for strollers, luggage, bicycles and other larger items. The vehicles are designed as 100% low-floor cars, which means there are no steps to follow to get from the platform to the train. Officials said this design will help improve accessibility features for passengers entering and exiting the car.

Other accessibility features include:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance
  • Wheelchair accommodation
  • Seats, grab handles
  • Illuminated push buttons and service status indicators
  • Bike room
  • Emergency intercom system in the train

What is the difference between light rail vehicles and regional trains on the red line?

Compared to the more traditional Red Line locomotive-style design, project leaders said the light rail trains are smaller with tighter curves that are specific to traffic patterns below and at ground level at across Austin’s urban centers and systems. Top speeds are predicted at 55 miles per hour for light rail cars.

Light rail trains are expected to traverse “mixed crossings”, such as traveling alongside other vehicles like buses and cars. The structure and design of the Red Line cars, on the other hand, are more suited to traditional commuter rail uses.

What underground safety features are there in light rail tunnels?

Key elements include both lighting and ventilation in the tunnels, as well as emergency gangways and car exits. Security cameras will be installed in all tunnel systems, along with radio connections for first responders and public safety in the event of an emergency.

Officials said train operators will also be inside the trains and are trained to respond to equipment malfunctions, such as an unscheduled stop along the line. Project Connect executives are also studying technology that would allow maintenance personnel to see inside light rail cars in real time so they can detect, diagnose and respond to any malfunctions.

What are the next steps in the design process?

Project Connect officials are expected to release 30% design and cost estimates this summer. The cost estimates come after executives noted that preliminary costs for the light rail system are expected to nearly double, due to a combination of property, labor and chain cost inflations. increasingly expensive supplies and modifications to the scope of the program, such as elongated tunnels.

Officials will deliver the project in phases to minimize cost impacts and said they do not plan to raise taxes to fund the program’s high costs.

Jose P. Rogers