Newly appointed transit board to oversee implementation of $7.1B Project Connect plan

Proposition A, the ballot item associated with Capital Metro's Project Connect plan, passed Nov. 3 with 57.94% of the vote—240,433 votes to 174,528 against—across Travis and Williamson counties. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Proposition A, the ballot item associated with Capital Metro's Project Connect plan, passed Nov. 3 with 57.94% of the vote—240,433 votes to 174,528 against—across Travis and Williamson counties. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

Proposition A, the ballot item associated with Capital Metro's Project Connect plan, passed Nov. 3 with 57.94% of the vote—240,433 votes to 174,528 against—across Travis and Williamson counties. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

With the city’s transformation $7.1 billion Project Connect rail and bus plan approved by voters in November, Austin City Council and local transit authority Capital Metro appointed the five-person board responsible for overseeing its implementation.

The Austin Transit Partnership is made up by one member of the Austin City Council, one from the CapMetro board and then three community experts in finance, engineering, construction, sustainability and planning. The inaugural crew appointed by Austin City Council and CapMetro include Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Huston-Tillotson University President Colette Pierce Burnette, WSP USA Vice President Tony Elkins, CapMetro board member Eric Stratton, and Veronica Castro de Barrera, owner of VCdB Architecture and Art.

Adler called Project Connect the “single most important thing” the city could do in getting people out of cars and reaching its climate goals.

The independent board, which will act as the governing body of the Project Connect process, holds a significant amount of authority moving forward. The group will be responsible for approving the annual budget, approving design, construction and engineering projects, agreeing to interlocal agreements and overseeing the implementation, design and construction of the $7.1 billion transit plan’s projects. Austin City Council and the CapMetro board will oversee the Austin Transit Partnership’s work.

The authority granted to the Austin Transit Partnership members was a sticking point for several community members who spoke in objection to moving forward with the appointments at the Dec. 18 meeting. During the public comment portion, several Austinites complained that the process was rushed, opaque and lacked public input.


Monica Guzman from Go Austin/Vamos Austin said the communities of color were not engaged in the selection process for the Austin Transit Partnership. Many others complained that the notice for the meeting was only posted 72 hours ahead of time, well shy of the week, and sometimes two-week, notice practice of Austin City Council.

One representative from AURA, a local advocacy group that has pushed transit solutions for years, said they voted for Proposition A in November to accept the take hike associated with the projects, but was concerned with the lack of transparency around the Austin Transit Partnership process.

Council Member Ann Kitchen, who was on the selection committee for the Austin Transit Partnership, said the governing bodies need to have a “hand in glove approach” with the community through the rest of the Project Connect partnership. She acknowledged their shortcomings in balancing transparency with the need to move quickly.

“This is a learning and a growing process for all of us,” Kitchen said. “Trust is top of mind and most important. I think we can do better.”

Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion said since the voters approved the massive project, the governing bodies need to be prepared to “bend over backwards” in order to engage them and ensure they understand the what, how and why of the different steps of the process.

The Austin Transit Partnership’s inaugural meeting is scheduled for next month.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


MOST RECENT

The city of Austin's Smart Mobility Office has partnered with Ford on self-driving vehicle initiatives. (Courtesy Ford Motor Company)
Austin's transportation department paving the way for rise in autonomous vehicle traffic

Several private companies are working on autonomous vehicle initiatives in Austin in addition to the city's own smart infrastructure planning.

COVID-19 precautions such as a masking requirement remain in place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Courtesy Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
'Signs of hope' on the horizon at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after year-plus dip in air travel

Rising passenger counts, new airline operations and an increase in vaccinations could all support the airport's recovery in 2021.

A University of Texas office tower is under development at the downtown Central Health site formerly home to the Brackenridge hospital campus. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Health's 'cornerstone' downtown site moving forward on path to redevelopment

Much of the site's future scope is yet to be determined ahead of a May 20 rezoning hearing before City Council.

Photo of a man climbing on a rock wall
Four Austin institutions celebrate anniversaries

Crux Climbing Center and Austin Vet Hospital are among the businesses hitting milestones in May.

Capital Metro bus
Capital Metro announces increased transit services for Austin FC games this season

Capital Metro has increased the frequency of several bus routes for Austin FC game days at Q2 Stadium.

masks
CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

The property has been a redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization target for years. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin evaluating 6 plans to redevelop 19-acre St. John site into mixed-use district

The city has long been seeking to rejuvenate the St. John neighborhood property off I-35 with new housing, retail and recreational space.

Students at Norman-Sims Elementary School and Austin ISD's 124 other schools across the district will now be allowed to remove masks during outdoor physical activities with the permission of a parent or guardian. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD makes outdoor masking optional, eases other health, safety restrictions

Students engaging in outdoor physical activity will now have the option to remove masks.

Photo of the Indeed Tower in downtown Austin
Four Central Austin businesses on the move

These Austin businesses are relocating.

Sienna at the Thompson will include 331 apartment rental homes on floors 15 through 31 of the Thompson Hotel, under construction in downtown Austin. (Rendering courtesy Magellan Development Group)
Forthcoming Thompson Hotel in downtown Austin will include apartment rental homes, restaurant from Chicago-based group

Sienna at the Thompson will provide 331 units on floors 15 through 31 of the hotel, while Land and Sea Department will be opening a restaurant on the fourth floor.