LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — For the third time, Leander voters chose to keep the city’s Capital Metro membership.

In 1985, 42 of 70 voters chose to join the Capital Metro transit authority as a member city. Then, 491 of 738 voters said they wanted to continue service in 2000. A 2004 election, which included all member cities, approved commuter rail service. 

On Saturday, unofficial May election results showed that 3,896 voters, or 58.5%, said they wanted to continue in Capital Metro. 

Another Capital Metro exit election cannot be placed on a ballot for five years. 

Now, the city is eligible for about $9.3 million in funding from Capital Metro for transit-supportive infrastructure projects. Capital Metro riders may also see more frequent rail stops after an expansion project completes in the fall.

New infrastructure funding

Leander City Council and Capital Metro entered into an agreement in March to give the city about $9.3 million in new funding from Capital Metro for transit projects. The agreement was conditional on voters choosing to stay in Capital Metro. 

This amount is about $2.45 million less than the sales-tax-funded cost of Leander to have Capital Metro services for fiscal year 2022, according to recent city estimates. The transit provider is funded through a 1% sales tax for each member city. 

Leander City Council will look at eligible projects for these programs at its May 19 meeting, city spokesperson Mike Neu said. Then, city and Capital Metro staff will meet to discuss these projects.

One part of the new funding is $1.9 million from Capital Metro’s Build Central Texas (BCT) program.

With BCT dollars, cities can submit transit-supportive projects for funding. Project examples include sidewalks, curb ramps, safety signage, electronic pedestrian signals, lighting, shelters, benches, landscaping, bus pads and roadway improvements on a transit route or directly leading to a transit route or transit facility, according to Capital Metro.

The BCT program already gives annual funds to Manor, Lago Vista, Jonestown, Point Venture and San Leanna. Leander would be the latest Capital Metro small-city member to join the program. Leander previously received BCT funding until 2010 when rail service began to Leander Station, which raised service costs and paused transit-supportive funding, according to Capital Metro.

The second part of the agreement will give the city $7.4 million from the $10 million Transit Supportive Infrastructure Fund. This total is based on the amount of Leander’s sales tax contributions that is greater than the cost of service to Leander. Board members created the fund in March.

Cities can also submit street resurfacing and mobility-enhancing projects in both fund programs, according to Capital Metro. These projects could include intersection improvements, signal timing changes, road widening, signage, lighting, bicycle/pedestrian improvements and ADA accessibility improvements.

Rail upgrades coming

Capital Metro is adding more rail tracks between the Lakeline Station in northwest Austin and Leander Station for “more frequent and reliable trains along the entire Red Line.” The stretch between these two stations has only one track. 

This $8.9 million Project Connect rail project is on track to finish this fall. Capital Metro officials began the expansion in fall 2021.