Capital Metro

TX: Agreement to Formalize Roles in Regional Rail Plan Nearing Final Approval

Officials from Capital Metro, the city of Austin and Lone Star Rail District announced April 10 the selection of a jointly-hired urban rail program Lead to manage ongoing planning, funding and future implementation of rail transit in central Texas.

Kyle Keahey, a 30-year veteran of transportation projects throughout Texas and the nation, has managed projects that have led to more than $6 billion in infrastructure investments. Keahey is currently a vice president and transit sector market leader for HNTB’s Central Division, where he will remain an HNTB employee while serving in a consultant role for the three central Texas regional transportation agencies.

“Kyle Keahey’s experience is precisely what central Texas needs now at a pivotal time for the urban rail initiative, as central Texas continues to experience rapid growth,” said Linda S. Watson, Capital Metro president/CEO. “His background in system planning, alternatives analysis, project development and the federal funding process makes him uniquely qualified for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

In his five years with HNTB, Keahey served in lead positions for multi-modal projects in Aspen, Colo. and San Antonio. Prior to joining HNTB, he was project manager and environmental task leader for two of Denver’s light-rail transit extensions. He also served for 10 years as the project manager and environmental impact study task leader for multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail projects, including the original 20-mile starter system. His work in Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C. also provided him with extensive experience to manage large, complex transit solutions.

“I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and dive right into the efforts to make urban rail in central Texas a reality,” said Keahey. “Urban rail is a key element of Project Connect’s network of transit options, which are essential for the mobility needs in central Texas over the next 30 years. It will take a great deal of effort and coordination among a number of parties, and I greatly look forward to talking to all of them very soon.”

Keahey’s work will begin immediately, will continue through late 2014, and will be conducted through an existing contract between Capital Metro and HNTB.

Eighty percent of the approximately $1 million annual HNTB contract, which will cover a variety of general engineering and consulting design services including Keahey’s, will be funded by a federal STP-MM grant awarded to the city of Austin by CAMPO in 2011, with the 20 percent local match being supplied by Capital Metro.

A joint agreement to formalize a unified approach to the management and oversight of future regional rail investments will be considered by the Austin City Council, Capital Metro board of directors and Lone Star Rail District executive committee this month. The formal agreement between Capital Metro, the city of Austin and the Lone Star Rail District would further establish an open and transparent record of planning and resource sharing, which began in 2011 under the Project Connect partnership.

The agreement would establish a joint executive committee, made up of three members appointed by the chief executive of each agency, to be chaired by Capital Metro President/CEO Linda Watson. The executive committee will assign Watson, to act as managing partner and provide day-to-day executive oversight to the urban rail program lead.

The agreement addresses a key recommendation delivered to Austin leaders by an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Peer Review team in early 2013. The Peer Review process is well-established as a valuable resource to the public transit industry, where highly experienced and respected transit and subject matter professionals provide their time and support to address the scope required.

“We’ve reached yet another milestone in the emerging central Texas transit system, and I’m pleased with the progress our teams are making together toward the goal of connecting Austin’s fast-growing activity centers with multiple transportation options, including rail,” said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

“Addressing mobility now and for our future is one of the City’s highest priorities,” said Austin City Manager Marc Ott.

The Project Connect partnership was undertaken to implement the high-capacity transit plan adopted by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) in 2010.

The three regional transportation partners are currently operating or pursuing potential development investments in the following passenger rail infrastructure within the central Texas regional high-capacity transit vision:
• Capital Metro operates the MetroRail Red Line, providing commuter rail service from Leander to downtown Austin; it has proposed future commuter service from Elgin to downtown Austin and is currently evaluating options for high capacity transit service through its Project Connect North Corridor study;
• The city of Austin is currently studying the potential design and feasibility of an initial Urban Rail line in Downtown Austin that would link the Capital Metro and Lone Star Rail District rail services to form a single regional rail system that could also ultimately provide service between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the Texas State Capitol Complex, the University of Texas, the Mueller Redevelopment and other destinations in Austin.
• The Lone Star Rail District is conducting environmental studies and working with the Union Pacific Railroad to establish the regional LSTAR passenger rail line, with potential stations in Georgetown, Round Rock, Austin (including downtown Austin), Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, New Braunfels, Schertz and San Antonio.