DALLAS -- The Austin City Council has added another nudge to the Lone Star Rail line that is expected to someday connect the city to San Antonio and suburbs to the south and north.

Under an agreement approved by the city council, Austin will create transportation infrastructure zones around proposed rail stations. A percentage of property taxes in the zones that exceed the base valuation of Jan. 1, 2013 would fund the city’s contribution to the rail line.

Officials for the Lone Star Rail District, created in 1997, noted studies that show transit oriented development can boost property values by 36%.

Partners in the project are in negotiations with freight hauler Union Pacific Railroad to work out a deal to share rails or to relocate the freight lines to make way for passenger service.

While this month’s agreement simply sets a framework for funding, the council will consider an actual levy to finance the project in April, council members said.

The Lone Star Rail Line is one element of a larger regional transportation plan called Project Connect that includes local governments in the growing urban corridor.

Other elements include express lanes on highways, and potential light rail service.

Promoters of the plan point to the success of the Trinity Railway Express that connects transit systems in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Austin is already served by a commuter rail line that links downtown to the northern suburb of Leander.

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