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Cap Metro board endorses $50M contract for MetroRapid projects

Tuesday, October 26, 2021 by Seth Smalley

On Monday, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved a resolution authorizing the execution of a five-year, $50 million group of construction contracts for transit facilities. Part of Project Connect, the primary goal of these particular contracts is to facilitate MetroRapid construction projects.

The funding comes from the Capital Metro Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan, a subset of overall Project Connect funding. Unity Contracting Services, Stacy and Witbeck, and M.A. Smith Contracting Company are the contracting companies involved in the deal.

“MetroRapid projects are a part of Project Connect, which is being implemented by the Austin Transit Partnership,” said Kenneth Cartwright, a Capital Metro vice president. “However, for the MetroRapid projects and some of the Red Line regional rail projects, Capital Metro will actually be taking the lead, implementing those projects.”

In the next three to four years, the transit agency expects to build 106 MetroRapid stations across different lines. On top of that, Capital Metro will be using the contractors to build electric charging stations for the electric buses as well as run-of-the-mill bus stop improvements.

A few public callers reiterated the need for the worker protection provisions in the contract, which became a point of tension during the meeting. Board Member Ann Kitchen pointed out that the Joint Powers Agreement, which will be finalized Friday and which requires the participation of multiple boards, contains provisions for workers. It could be problematic to approve the contract without formally agreeing to comply with whatever the JPA decides, Kitchen contended.

The DBE, or disadvantaged business enterprise goal for the project, Cartwright explained, is 17 percent. DBE is a federal certification initiative aimed at helping a variety of socially disadvantaged business owners, particularly women and minorities.

“Each of these contractors either meets or exceeds that,” Cartwright told board members.

The Expo and Pleasant Valley lines are the first two MetroRapid projects Capital Metro will work on. Both are currently in the project development phase, meaning the Federal Transit Administration has assigned a group of consultants to guide Capital Metro through the grant process. “From design and environmental, all the way through construction … and to the startup of the lines when they go into service,” Cartwright said.

Capital Metro is working with the FTA on a “letter of no prejudice,” which will allow it to begin construction before actually signing a grant agreement. Construction is slated for before the end of this year, while the grant agreement will most likely be executed in spring 2022.

Last month, board members approved a contract for the electric battery buses, a portion of which were dedicated to MetroRapid projects. Cartwright expects there will be an additional presentation to the board in January regarding a separate contract for the construction and installation of MetroRapid shelters.

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