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CapMetro Planning For Urban Rail Before Voter Approval

Updated: Monday, December 3 2012, 10:09 PM CST

Austin already has metro rail, but in the city's plan for the future of transportation, urban rail is another possibility.

But before that happens, an urban rail plan has to go on the ballot and be approved by taxpayers; something that hasn't happened yet.

So why is the city already hiring someone to plan an urban rail project two years before voters could potentially approve it? 

In a KEYE TV Waste Watch investigation, we dug into how your tax dollars are being spent.

It's the age old question: Which comes first, the employee or the job? In Capital Metro's case, the answer is the employee.

"We're looking at a two year contract, still trying to hammer out the details," said Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson.

Capital Metro and the City of Austin are in the middle of a nationwide search to hire an Urban Rail Project Lead. 

Urban Rail is one idea for Capital Metros' comprehensive transportation plan; one that's been studied but not yet approved by taxpayers.

KEYE TV sat down with Capital Metro's CEO Linda Watson to ask her if it was a waste of taxpayer money to hire someone for a project that doesn't yet exist. 

"Hiring this person ensures we do this process the right way," said Watson. "€œThat we get a lot of public input and we plan something the community does want."€

Watson clarified this hire won't run an urban rail system, they'€™ll develop it. It'€™s a way of ensuring that when a plan does go before voters, it will pass. 

"If we develop on our own a system that isn't supported by the public, we've wasted money,"€ said Watson. “But doing it this way, with a lot of public input, you end up developing a system that's wanted by the public."

"€œI think that's needed. I think it's really needed," said Capital Metro rider Danika Saenz.

Danika Saenz takes a Capital Metro bus and train to work every day.  She says she'€™s in favor of spending tax payer dollars that will move along a rail expansion and help ease Austin'€™s congestion woes.   

"€œI mean why not, if it's going to benefit everyone, and a lot of people do use public transportation, then why not?" she said.

Phase one of an Urban Rail project could cost $550 million, according to the Austin Urban Rail website.  By hiring a person to oversee the project’s development, Watson says it could make the city eligible for millions in federal grant money.

Watson said she hopes to have the Urban Rail Project Lead position filled shortly after the New Year.  She didn’t have an estimate on how much the position would pay for the two year salary.

By Karen KileyCapMetro Planning For Urban Rail Before Voter Approval



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