Project Connect to Impact West Campus Buildings
By Cristina Folsom
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – A project to add new rail lines will displace several West Campus businesses within the next few years, according to Austin Transit Partnership.
In the most recent proposal for Project Connect, the Orange Line is set to run through Guadalupe Street between Stassney Lane and North Lamar Boulevard, stopping at UT West Mall.
Whataburger, Halal Bros, Dirty Martin’s and at least nine other businesses will be displaced, and the parking lot of the Kappa Delta sorority house will be turned into a bus station.
Austin voters approved Project Connect in 2020. Lonny Stern, the Intro Director for Community Engagement and Involvement for Austin Transit Partnership, said the choice was between displacing student housing on one side of the street or several businesses on the other side.
Stern said that due to the housing crisis, the choice was to displace the businesses, but people shouldn’t worry.
“A lot of the places that you might think of as having been there forever have actually moved several times. We’re absolutely willing to work with any of those businesses in there to accommodate their needs,” Stern said.
He said this portion of The Drag is a heavy pedestrian zone. While the student population is growing, the streets are not.
“West Campus is one of our most frequent users of transit. It’s almost as strong a market as downtown is,” Stern said.
This proposal will remove vehicle traffic from 21st Street to Dean Keeton Street along The Drag. This means traffic will be redirected from Guadalupe Street to West Campus, raising concern for students.
Logan Dubel, a freshman at UT, said this is unfair.
“At the end of the day, this is UT campus around here, this is not anywhere else,” Dubel said. “It’s UT students living here, it’s UT students working here, so I think that we need to consider them first.”
Haiqah Khan, a health and society sophomore, said a weekend hotspot for students is the Whataburger that is open 24 hours a day.
“I feel like everything closes so early that whenever I’m just hungry, it might be one of my go-tos you know,” Khan said.
She said she would be sad if it goes away, and expects many others would also miss it.
Austin Transit Partnership estimates Project Connect will cost approximately $7.1 billion. Stern said the partnership still needs more community input before staff presents it to the government for federal funding.