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Martinez elected to chair newly revamped Capital Metro board

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

Monday was a busy day for the brand-new Capital Metro Board of Directors, whose first meeting of the year was filled with elections, appointments, and the hopeful news that the long-awaited MetroRail train line may be a mere two months away from being operational.


The meeting began with board members voting in a new chair. Leander Mayor John Cowman, after a heartfelt speech about the value of public transit in a flourishing democracy, nominated Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez for the job. New Board Member Frank Fernandez then nominated John Langmore to be vice-chair, followed by Langmore’s nominating fellow new Board Member Beverly Silas to be secretary. After no discussion, the board voted unanimously in favor of all three nominations, 8-0, after which Acting Chairman Chris Riley handed over the gavel to Martinez.


After moving to his new chair at the center of the dais, Martinez thanked his fellow board members and told them, “There’s a better day for Cap Metro. And I look forward to serving in this position. … My goal and my job here is to get this agency going in the direction we all want it and get it to a place where we can all meet our transportation needs and be supportive of one another in achieving that.”


Martinez then went about appointing subcommittees and subcommittee chairpersons for the coming year. All appointments were approved unanimously by the board.


Martinez first appointed Norm Chavetz to chair the subcommittee tasked with searching for a new Cap Metro president/CEO, a position currently being filled on an interim basis by Doug Allen. Board members Silas, Fernandez, and Langmore were then appointed to the subcommittee.


Next came the appointments to the Labor Relations Subcommittee. Martinez was appointed to chair the subcommittee, with Board Members Ann Moore Stafford, Riley, and Cowman joining him.


Langmore was appointed chair of the Rail Subcommittee, joined by Board Members Chafetz, Riley, and Silas; Fernandez will head the Finance and Audit Subcommittee, made up of Members Cowman and Stafford; and Members Martinez and Chafetz will form the Operations and Planning Subcommittee.


Their appointments out of the way, board members then had to decide on their term lengths. Agency Chief Counsel Kerri Butcher told the board that “in order to have some sort of continuity of knowledge on the Board of Directors,” the agency statute dictates staggered terms for its board members.


In a quick game-show-like ceremony, the eight board members pulled their end-of-service dates from a bag at random, with two of them receiving one-and-a-half-year terms, three of them receiving two-and-a-half-year terms, and three of them receiving three-and-a-half-year terms.


Board members Langmore and Chavetz will serve through June 1, 2011. Members Cowman, Silas, and Fernandez will serve through June 1, 2012. And Members Riley, Martinez, and Stafford will serve through June 1, 2013.


The board then got down to the business of running a transit agency. The most important item on the agenda was hearing a status update from Executive Vice President Elaine Timbes on the long-awaited MetroRail commuter line. 


There was a lot of concern when Cap Metro terminated its contract with Veolia Transportation on Dec. 9 and contracted with Herzog Transit Services to finish the MetroRail project. The line’s launch date had already been pushed back several times, and both board members and citizens were worried that switching contractors would set it back even further.


Timbes assured the Board yesterday that the transfer would cause no such delay. She said that Herzog had successfully transitioned or hired for all staff positions by Dec. 30, with the exception of a signal supervisor position and a safety/training supervisor position, both of which are being filled by Herzog staff on an interim basis, and that MetroRail was on schedule to begin operations in March of this year.


Timbes said that the Federal Rail Administration had done a comprehensive on-site review of rail operations status on Jan. 12, including the system’s infrastructure and signal system programming changes.


Herzog identified rail, bridge, signal, and crossing improvements required by the Federal Rail Administration and mobilized additional track and bridge crews to complete those improvements.


Timbes said that radio system poles will be installed this month, and the installation of the system’s Intelligent Transit System (ITS) – which includes a GPS-enabled train location system, a dynamic messaging system that informs passengers of when trains will be arriving, and an automatic passenger-counting system – is being completed.


On Jan. 21, Cap Metro notified the Federal Rail Administration of its intention to begin passenger service in mid- to late March.

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