By Brittany Anderson
KYLE — Elon Musk’s The Boring Company is eyeing Kyle to build a pedestrian railroad underpass, but the project must be cleared by the railroad company first.
During the May 17 city council meeting, Kyle City Council voted 5-1 to approve a reimbursement agreement with Union Pacific Railroad that is necessary to move the proposed project along. Flores-Cale was the dissenting vote and Mayor Travis Mitchell was not present for the meeting.
Council previously approved a professional services agreement to construct the underpass with TBC during the May 3 meeting.
The underpass will connect to the Vybe — a city-wide trail network still in progress, but will one day connect all Kyle neighborhoods to commercial spaces — for a vehicle-less transportation option. The underpass will be located off Marketplace Avenue and FM 1626, where the Kyle Crossing Phase II is being developed by Central Southwest Texas Development (CSW).
The reimbursement agreement comes with a price tag of $75,000 and includes the preliminary engineering services for the underpass. However, the agreement, along with the entirety of the project, is set to be funded by CSW.
Allen Ross of Schaumburg and Polk, Inc., an engineering services provider, explained that because the proposed underpass goes underneath the UPR track, the city has to prepare engineering drawings and present them to UPR for review and possible approval in order for any construction or infrastructure to occur.
“The way that the city reimburses UPR for such a review is through this agreement,” Ross added. “In this particular case, CSW is funding the agreement 100%. The $75,000 does not come from the city’s general fund, or any other fund.”
Council member Yvonne Flores-Cale still raised concerns about the agreement exceeding that price. Ross said that based on TBC’s recent experience with projects like this, the cost should be able to cover the review of the engineering drawings.
City manager Scott Sellers also said that although it is not explicitly written into the reimbursable agreement, if additional funds are needed, they will be requested from CSW. He also reiterated that as part of a design-build contract there will be a guaranteed maximum price of $3 million that CSW should not exceed. If the price is over that limit, it will be brought back to council who will decide whether to abandon the project or add more funds as needed.
The $75,000 for the agreement will come out of the $3 million total that CSW is set to spend for the entire project, but as council member Daniela Parsley pointed out, UPR could still deny the permit to build even after the money is spent.
“It does not guarantee that you will get the construction and maintenance agreement, which is ultimately what we’re pursuing with UPR,” Ross said. “UPR controls the right-of-way, and they have absolute authority to either approve or disapprove the plans presented by TBC. But we feel that as long as TBC provides good engineering services, that it has a very high chance of being approved.”
Council member Michael Tobias also said one concern brought up by a constituent was what would happen in the event that the tracks become inoperable or the train gets stuck in the city during the construction of the underpass.
“The endeavor of TBC will be to construct the tunnel such that the railroad track is not shut down ever,” Ross said. “If the plans and specifications that TBC put together don’t include zero impact to the railroad, or at least traffic to the railroad, I don’t think it will be approved by UPR in the first place. TBC knows that the bar is high, and that they must design this thing and construct it such that the traffic on the tracks is never impeded.”
While plans for the underpass continue to progress, other questions still remain, such as who will be responsible for maintaining the underpass and the costs associated with that.
In the meantime, if the agreement is reviewed and approved, the next step will be a construction and maintenance agreement between the city and UPR, which will also be funded by CSW.