Founded in 1985, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or CapMetro is, Austin, TX’s regional public transportation provider. In total, CapMetro oversees a network of commuter rail, bus, and paratransit throughout the Austin metro area. MetroRail is CapMetro’s 32-mile, 9-station rail alignment, running from downtown Austin through the city to the suburb of Leander. Since opening in 2010, CapMetro has made numerous investments to enhance and upgrade its rail service, including plans to add a second commuter line as well as two light rail lines—all part of CapMetro’s Project Connect transit development plan.
A key element of the plan is the new McKalla Station. Located near the Q2 Major League Soccer Stadium, McKalla will provide new transit options for regional rail riders and support the continued development of booming North Burnet area. Once complete, the station will have two platforms and an event platform to increase capacity to up to 20,000 passengers though the station on game days.
Hill International, Inc. and its team of DBE subconsultants are helping to deliver the new McKalla Station, providing construction management, resident engineering, site inspection, cost management, schedule monitoring, and document control for the design-build station platforms and the design-bid-build delivery of 1.5 miles of associated double track.
“We’re at the halfway point of construction for the McKalla Station Projects,” says Hill’s Andrew Ditter, Construction Manager/Resident Engineer. “We’ve successfully installed more than 2,000 linear feet of drainage structures, retaining walls of over 1,500 linear feet, and most recently provided a shoofly that stretches over 1,800 linear feet through the project.”
Ditter explains, “These efforts over the last 11 months have improved site drainage and helped us reach important phasing milestones. In the coming months the new platforms will be constructed to allow riders closer access to the Q2 Stadium, and the existing stretch of rail network will be enhanced by adding double track surrounding McKalla Station and the adjacent intersections.”
Overall, the projects create a railroad quiet zone at three major crossings, multi-modal connection to intercity buses, a shared-use pedestrian and bike path, and enlarged plaza to support an outdoor amphitheater. Ditter adds that all work is being performed while maintaining revenue service on the existing and future use diesel multiple unit and freight-used railway corridor.
“Coordination is always key on rail projects,” says Ditter, who has more than 25 years supporting the delivery of rail and transit projects across the U.S. and around the world. “And McKalla embodies this—we have construction happening in a thriving urban neighborhood and along an active rail alignment. So, our team in the field makes certain logistics and staging happen on schedule and as planned.”
Additionally, Ditter explains the team’s back-office support is equally critical to keeping work moving safely and efficiently. “Our team’s cost and schedule monitoring and document control help keep CapMetro informed and in control of our progress,” says Ditter. “Change on a complex design-build project like this is almost inevitable, but how we handle that change makes all the difference.
“Our partners from Coleman and Associates, Foster CM Group, HVJ Associates, SAM, and Atkins bring the local understanding and expertise to make sure the paper trail is complete, current, and visible to everyone who needs access. It’s a testament to their work that McKalla is happening as smoothly as it is,” says Ditter. “Especially given the procurement challenges impacting the industry right now.”
Looking towards the second half of the project, Ditter anticipates an equally strong effort. “We’re on-track for completion in late 2023, ready for the 2024 Austin FC season,” he says. “And if the first half is any indication, I think CapMetro will be more than pleased with their new station.”
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