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Officials Must Act Fast On Project Connect Equity Strategies, Appointments To New Transit Board

An artist's rendering of a light-rail station platform.
Capital Metro
An artist's rendering of light-rail platform that would be built as part of Project Connect.

When voters approved Proposition A earlier this month, they not only approved spending on new train and bus lines, but also $300 million to help prevent people from getting priced out of their neighborhoods by new development.

Austin officials now have six months to create a process to give neighborhoods a voice on how that money should be spent.

Brion Oaks, the city's chief equity officer, told members of the Austin City Council’s housing and mobility committees Thursday that it would be important to rebalance “power and decision-making structures” when it comes to community issues.

“Are there opportunities on some of the governing boards, decision-making bodies where we really make sure that we ... carve out space or we hold out space for people who have been directly impacted to make sure their voices are center,” Oaks said.

One of those decision-making bodies will be the board of the new Austin Transit Partnership, which will oversee the financing and construction of Project Connect.

The five-member board will include one member each from the Austin City Council and Capital Metro board, along with three experts on finance, construction or engineering, and community planning.

Officials want the ATP board seated by January, so there’s a tight timetable for appointments. Those interested in the positions have until Nov. 27 to submit a letter of interest.

The City Council and Cap Metro board will jointly meet on Dec. 18 to select the ATP board members. The ATP would then hold its first meeting in January.

Capital Metro alsoprovided an update on the timeline for Project Connect. Work on upgrades to the Red Line, including the new Broadmoor Station and double-tracking between Leander and Lakeline Stations, will begin within the next year.

Construction will also begin on at least two of the new MetroRapid limited bus stop lines, including one on Pleasant Valley Road in East Austin.

Planning continues for the new Orange and Blue Line trains in the coming months as well, with several community meetings planned in 2021.

Samuel King covers transportation and mobility for KUT News.
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