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Project Connect agreement sees third and final approval

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 by Seth Smalley

On Nov. 17, the Austin Transit Partnership board approved the Joint Powers Agreement, which was created to delineate the roles of each of the agencies involved in administering the multibillion-dollar transit project, Project Connect.

ATP was the last of the three governing bodies – besides Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city – to pass the agreement, with the Capital Metro board passing the agreement the week prior.

“I think it’s important to mention that we have reached a very important milestone as we continue with this program. I am proud of the partnership that we have built with the city of Austin and with Capital Metro,” ATP Chair Veronica Castro de Barrera said.

The plan outlines the specific roles and purviews of each agency in the implementation of Project Connect, procedures for dispute resolution and general project principles, as well as language committing to adding mechanisms for receiving and responding to community feedback.

Tony Elkins, an ATP board member and community expert in finance, suggested amending plan language to include direction to work with lawyers on creating an independent analysis that will determine an appropriate leadership model for ATP.

“Such a proposed process shall, at a minimum, identify the objectives and priorities of the ATP board in determining the appropriate leadership model to establish a community engagement process with the Community Advisory Committee, Technical Advisory Committee and others,” Elkins said.

His amendment proposed hiring a consultant to deliver an independent report regarding the pros and cons of both independent and joint leadership models. The proposed deadline for the independent analysis would be March 31, 2022.

There were no objections to the amendment.

“I think it’s important to appreciate the city of Austin and Cap Metro board for their foresight in creating an independent entity that can help deliver this program,” Castro de Barrera said, referring to the Austin Transit Partnership.

“This is a big thing,” said Mayor Steve Adler, who also serves as vice chair to the ATP board. “The community has really entrusted us to deliver this project and to implement Project Connect on time and budget in a manner that centers equity and that involves the community and transforms the city for generations.”

Several other board members acknowledged the hard work that went into the agreement.

“It’s not perfect, but then again, what is perfect?” Elkins said. “I think it was negotiated in the spirit of true compromise between the three bodies and I think it’s a good document. I think a lot of people put a lot of work into this agreement.”

Board Member Eric Stratton, who also serves on the Capital Metro board, said, “I’m looking forward to voting for this thing twice now.”

The motion unanimously carried, amendment included.

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