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Two down, one to go: Cap Metro passes joint powers agreement

Tuesday, November 16, 2021 by Seth Smalley

At the Nov. 10 meeting of the Capital Metro Board of Directors, members emerged from a closed-door executive session to pass the joint powers agreement. The purpose of the joint agreement between the city, Capital Metro and the Austin-Transit Partnership is to delineate the roles and responsibilities of each of the three governing bodies to execute the $7.1 billion transit expansion project, Project Connect.

The city approved the agreement six days earlier, Nov. 4, while the ATP board is slated to vote on the JPA on Wednesday.

“The city of Austin has already passed the JPA; we’ll be passing it today. I anticipate ATP will also. This is a major milestone for Project Connect and I think it’s an exciting place to be,” Capital Metro board member and City Council member Ann Kitchen said.

Joint commitments outlined by the plan include (but are not limited to):

  • recognizing Project Connect will “truly deliver” on citywide transit goals, including expanding bus, commuter rail, neighborhood circulator infrastructure.
  • agreeing to be proper stewards for the taxpayer-derived Project Connect funds
  • establishing a resolution procedure for disputes over technical issues
  • adhering to equity principles and addressing displacement as it pertains to Project Connect infrastructure construction
  • using respective employee resources to adhere to Project Connect program budgets and schedules
  • prioritizing resources to ensure inspection/permitting papers are completed on time and efficiently.
  • working with each other to find additional ways to increase Project Connect funding, including from federal, state and local sources.
  • engaging with community members from various racial, income and educational backgrounds and including their feedback
  • including a mechanism to respond to community feedback and report how it was implemented

The roles of ATP, as outlined by the agreement, include contracting with general entities and employing individuals in order to carry out ATP’s administrative operations and implementing the goals of Project Connect. Additional ATP roles described in the agreement are acquiring personal property, procuring professional services as they relate to Project Connect and applying for funding grants and other money-making mechanisms.

The roles of the city and Capital Metro, meanwhile, include “supporting ATP in the implementation of Project Connect.” They will also appoint ATP Board members and review and adopt amendments to the articles of incorporation.

“Implementation of the Project Connect System Plan will create an integrated transit system that addresses transit needs for safer, faster and more reliable transportation,” the JPA reads. “That will improve access to essential services, such as education, health care, food access, child care, jobs, and open space especially in historically underserved and underrepresented communities, and … will manage congestion, create jobs, improve the environment and better connect people in our community.”

“This is really the blueprint for how we go forward and we’ve had great collaboration between the city and CapMetro and now with ATP,” Capital Metro Board Chair Wade Cooper said. “I’ll say this is a very good document. It is not a perfect document. It does not contemplate every set of circumstances that will come up into the future. So we’ll have to continue to work together as we evolve into this project.”

The motion to pass the JPA unanimously carried, six to zero.

Rendering courtesy of Capital Metro.

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