‘It’s a good day’: $7.1B Project Connect forges ahead following legislative vote

Austin

The Austin Transit Partnership Board of Directors approved the joint powers agreement for the $7.1B Project Connect transit overhaul Nov. 17. (Screenshot courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Transit Partnership unanimously approved the joint powers agreement for Project Connect Wednesday, codifying the goals, objectives and responsibilities of the tri-board leadership in executing the program. The vote follows approval by Austin City Council and Capital Metro’s board of directors last week.

Austin voters approved the $7.1 billion transit overhaul proposal during the November 2020 election. Under the program, the city is gearing up for a large-scale revamp of its public transportation offerings, particularly with the addition of a light rail system running throughout the city.

An initial vote of the JPA was scheduled for Oct. 29. Operating under a limited timeframe and after new drafts of the document were presented, that vote was postponed. All three entities involved in Project Connect — the city of Austin, CapMetro and ATP — approved the JPA individually at their own respective meetings.

“Today’s meeting puts us one step closer to fulfilling those commitments that we made in contracts with voters,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, adding: “It’s a good day.”

Prior to the vote, ATP board member Tony Elkins proposed an amendment for an independent analysis of an “appropriate leadership model for ATP,” accounting for feedback from ATP advisory committees and community members. As part of such analysis, ATP leaders will seek to “evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of independent and joint leadership models,” Elkins said.

The amendment follows public comments made during the Oct. 29 meeting, where some community members expressed concerns over the intertwined leadership roles of ATP, CapMetro and the city.

With this analysis, Elkins noted establishing benchmarks to evaluate its progress ahead of a March 31, 2022 deadline.

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, board member Eric Stratton commended efforts of ATP staff and other officials who helped craft the document and make tweaks, as requested.

“Let’s keep the trains running on time,” he said. “Let’s take the next step. Let’s get this built.”

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