Capital Metro and local, state and federal officials gathered Feb. 16 to break ground on a new Project Connect MetroRapid bus system serving East Austin.

Once completed in the next several years, the Pleasant Valley MetroRapid line will run from the Mueller neighborhood through Riverside to Goodnight Ranch. The February groundbreaking is Project Connect's second for bus service on the city's east side in recent months following a ceremony for the public transit system's Expo line in December.

"It's another investment in East Austin," Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke said. "Part of our program values was really about how do we do better, equitable investments in the community in places that are underserved. And this is a great example of that, and so many of our leaders out here today worked really hard to ensure those types of projects were included in our plan."

Officials in attendance included U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett and several Austin City Council members. Speakers commented on the new line's affordable connectivity to local businesses and grocery stores, its role in reducing future congestion and its contributions to city environmental goals; the Pleasant Valley line is expected to operate with an electric, zero-emission fleet.

"This makes a change in the everyday lives of regular Austinites. Folks like me, my loved ones. And I could not be more excited to see this day happen," said Awais Azhar, chair of the Project Connect Community Advisory Committee.

Along with the new electric fleet, the Pleasant Valley line will also feature several new bus stops with amenities including security cameras, improved lighting, real-time arrival time information boards and accessible station designs. The line will also link with Project Connect's new light rail routes with a Green Line transfer on East Cesar Chavez Street and a Blue Line transfer at East Riverside Drive.

The new MetroRapid line will use an all-electric bus fleet. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)