Urban rail leader hired for Project Connect plan

A 30-year transportation veteran has been hired to lead the urban rail initiative in Central Texas as part of the Project Connect regional transportation plan.

Officials from the City of Austin, Capital Metro and Lone Star Rail District announced April 10 the joint hiring of Kyle Keahey to manage ongoing planning, funding and future implementation of the urban rail portion of the plan. Project Connect also includes plans for MetroRapid, Capital Metro's bus rapid transit system that launches in 2014.

Keahey currently serves as vice president and transit sector market leader for HNTB, a firm that provides infrastructure-related services and has expertise in transportation. He will remain an HNTB employee. Keahey's work with the urban rail initiative will begin immediately and continue through late 2014.

Keahey has served in lead positions for other multi-modal projects in Aspen, Colo. and San Antonio for HNTB and also worked as the project manager and environmental impact study task leader for numerous light rail projects for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, according to a news release.

"I'm eager to roll up my sleeves and dive right into the efforts to make Urban Rail in Central Texas a reality," Keahey said in a news release. "Urban rail is a key element of Project Connect's network of transit options, which are essential for the mobility needs in Central Texas over the next 30 years. It will take a great deal of effort and coordination among a number of parties, and I greatly look forward to talking to all of them very soon."

Capital Metro spokeswoman Erica Macioge said the transit agency already has an existing contract with HNTB, which allowed for Capital Metro to add additional funding to support Keahey's role. A portion of the $1 million contract will be specific to the urban rail initiative, she said.

About 80 percent of that contract, which covers general engineering and design services, is funded by a grant that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded to the City of Austin in 2011, with the remaining 20 percent of the local match funded by Capital Metro.

Capital Metro, Lone Star Rail and the city are expected to formalize a joint agreement for management and oversight of the regional rail investments in April. This agreement would establish a joint executive committee comprising the chief executive of each agency and would be chaired by Capital Metro President/CEO Linda Watson.

For more information on Project Connect, visit www.connectcentraltexas.com.

By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.