Friday, October 30, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

Project Connect lives

Several months after a catastrophic hack forced Capital Metro officials to yank it offline, Project Connect’s website is back in action. It’s not clear exactly when officials turned ProjectConnect.com back on. A check as recently as Oct. 7 by a member of the Austin Monitor team yielded an error message. However, the site is undeniably back now.

Project Connect – a collaborative effort among the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city of Austin, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and Lone Star Rail to bring a network of high-capacity public transit to Central Texas – suffered a humiliating defeat at the polls last November when voters overwhelmingly rejected its $1 billion roads-and-rail proposition.

The initiative’s prolonged radio silence after the election suggested a hopelessly moribund direction, which was only underscored by the implosion of its website last May. However, the site’s resurrection, along with the slightly refined “Vision Map” that it now features, seems to give proof to officials’ reassurances that Project Connect was merely in a state of strategic chrysalis.

While at first blush the Vision Map might not seem at all different from its predecessor, a closer inspection reveals that the East Riverside-to-Highland route that was once the planned home for Austin’s first light rail service is now simply marked for “Right-of-Way Preservation,” presumably for some as yet determined project. The same designation has also been applied to the existing freight rail line in South Austin that connects the Union Pacific line with Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

A Cap Metro spokesperson told the Monitor on Thursday that, due to the ongoing National Association of City Transportation Officials conference in downtown Austin this week, no officials were available to discuss the pressing questions swirling around Project Connect’s apparent revival.

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