AUSTIN (KXAN) — Leaders behind Austin’s Project Connect mass transit system approved several multi-million-dollar contracts Wednesday as the program revs up its light rail system buildout.

The Austin Transit Partnership — the entity tasked with overseeing the delivery of Project Connect — approved a contract with HDR Engineering Inc. to assist with program development and adhering to standards outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.

The program development and management specifically focuses on ways to maximize the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts Capital Investment Grant Program, to help secure federal funding for the light rail system. Contractual work on that will run through Dec. 31, 2023.

Regarding the NEPA component, ATP documents noted that work will continue until the FTA issues its record of decision — essentially, delivers the greenlight that Project Connect is set to get dirt turning on the light rail design.

The contract is capped at $26 million for both components, per documents.

As part of the contract, ATP and HDR Engineering have set a goal of at least 10% of construction-related businesses the system works with being classified as “disadvantaged business enterprises.” That means at least 10% of work on transportation-related construction projects will come from woman-owned and minority-owned businesses.

This contract comes as ATP is expected to announce its final design for the initial investment of light rail services in June. Last month, the entity unveiled five scaled-down route options, after pausing design work last summer amid ballooning costs.

The ATP board also approved a $3.7 million contract with AECOM Technical Services Inc. for community engagement and design work planning services, as well as a $2.3 million contract with HNTB Corporation for conceptual design engineering.