Transportation Veteran to Lead Central Texas Urban Rail Effort

Agreement to Formalize Roles in Regional Rail Plan Nearing Final Approval 

Officials from Capital Metro, the City of Austin and Lone Star Rail District today announced 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. For Keahey’s complete list of accomplishments, visit

“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 the President/CEO of Capital Metro, Linda 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.


Vision Webinar Video Now Available

Did you miss our recent Project Connect Vision Open Houses and webinar?  Watch the webinar recording below to get an overview of the latest on Project Connect.  We had fantastic participation in our webinar – so many great questions were asked that we could not get to them all!  We will update this post soon with answers to the questions we did not get to in-person.  Thanks for your participation in realizing the vision for Central Texas’  high-capacity transit system.

Regional Leaders Support Central Texas Transportation Vision

Transit industry experts say Project Connect on right path

After a year of collaborative work, Project Connect regional partners, under the leadership of the Transit Working Group (TWG) led by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, officially unveiled a regional high-capacity transit vision that will keep Central Texas connected.

Project Connect Vision Map

Express lanes on highways, existing and new rail service, and rapid transit are all components of the regional vision that, when connected to the local bus network, will provide real improvements in the region’s mobility and connect cities and major activity centers throughout the region.

Adding people-moving capacity has been a key regional demand, as Central Texas has grown too fast for our transportation system to keep up. The Austin region has been crowned America’s “fastest growing” by Forbes for three consecutive years.

“The Transit Working Group analyzed a tremendous amount of data over this past year, to help us define a vision for a regional transit system to set Central Texas on a great path to move forward,” Leffingwell said. “The result is a plan that runs from Georgetown to Round Rock and Leander, takes several routes through the City of Austin and then continues on to Oak Hill and San Marcos.”

That path forward was reinforced by the results of a review of Project Connect and the Urban Rail project by an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) peer review delegation. The peer review report was released in conjunction with a public meeting of the Transit Working Group and delegation representatives. The peer review report acknowledged the leadership of the Transit Working Group, as well as the comprehensive system plan approach that Project Connect undertakes. The review also outlined opportunities and recommendations to ensure the successful implementation of the transit vision and its projects

In the coming weeks, Austin regional leaders will continue to meet and engage in collaborative discussion with each other and the community to execute the recommendations.

“The transit vision offers a smart, comprehensive regional network that will benefit our entire region. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the next investment to connect and enhance our regional transportation system,” said Capital Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson.

Project Connect will host several open house events in February to reintroduce the regional transit vision to the community. The work will be folded into the upcoming Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) 2040 transportation planning process.

  • Tuesday February 19, 5 – 8 PM; Seton Medical Center Hays (cafeteria); 6001 Kyle Parkway, Kyle
  • Wednesday February 20, 11 AM – 1 PM; Austin Energy Assembly Room; 721 Barton Springs Road; Austin
  • Wednesday February 20, 5 – 8 PM; Williamson Conference Center; 1209 N. I-35 Frontage Road; Round Rock
  • Tuesday, February 26, 12 – 1 PM; Online; Register for webinar

Next Steps

The Project Connect partners will work with the Transit Working Group to implement the recommendations on operation and planning for high-capacity transit, provided by the peer analysis conducted by APTA.

The Project Connect partners also anticipate hiring an urban rail program director to facilitate planning and outreach for the next phase of high-capacity transit.

Project Connect News Conference

Join Project Connect partners and members of the Transit Working Group on Friday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. in the Austin City Hall Press Conference Room to learn more about the high-capacity transit vision that will keep Central Texas connected. Copies of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) peer review of the regional transit plan and Urban Rail program will be distributed at the news conference.

Project Connect News Conference

Who: City of Austin, Capital Metro, Lone Star Rail District, CAMPO


  • Public launch of Transit Working Group’s regional transit Vision Map
  • Key findings on regional transit plan and Urban Rail program by national transit experts (American Public Transportation Association)
  • Status of joint Capital Metro & City of Austin Urban Rail project director

When: Friday, February 1, 2013 – 1 p.m.


  • Lee Leffingwell, Mayor, City of Austin
  • Linda S. Watson, President/CEO, Capital Metro
  • Sid Covington, Board Chairman, Lone Star Rail District
  • John Langmore, Board Vice-Chair, Capital Metro


  • Maureen McCoy, Director, CAMPO
  • Sarah Eckhardt, Commissioner, Travis County & Vice-Chair, CAMPO
  • Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority
  • Rob Spillar, Director, City of Austin Transportation Department
  • Todd Hemingson, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development, Capital Metro
  • Joe Black, Rail Director/Operations Manager, Lone Star Rail District

Austin City Hall
Press Conference Room
301 West 2nd Street, Austin

Parking: Austin City Hall parking garage (validated)

Transit: MetroRail and Downtown MetroBus Routes (

RSVP: Mykle Tomlinson, 512-344-9195 or

Project Connect

Project Connect is a partnership between Central Texas transportation agencies aimed at implementing the high-capacity transit component of the CAMPO2035 Plan. The CAMPO plan was adopted by regional government representatives in 2010 after a nine-month public outreach process involving policy makers and community stakeholders. The Project Connect partnership includes the city of Austin, Capital Metro, Lone Star Rail District and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).

The purpose of Project Connect is to build consensus on regional high-capacity transit and answer three key questions:

  • How will high-capacity transit components in the CAMPO 2035 Regional Transportation Plan work as a system?
  • How will our region organize to develop and operate the system?
  • How will we pay for the system over the long term?


High-capacity transit experts reviewing Austin regional plans

From the latest Austin Mobility News.

A team of transportation experts from several America cities with successful rail systems have agreed to provide a peer review of the Austin regional transit plan, officials said last week.

Capital Metro executive Todd Hemingson told the Transit Working Group the peers will provide the review in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association, who last fall sent a delegation of transit executives from peer U.S. cities to Austin.

Earlier this year, the Transit Working Group developed and approved a long-term transit vision, downloadable here, following months of regional discussion and public meetings.

The peer review would be completed and reviewed early next year.

The Transit Working Group approved a long-term high-capacity vision earlier this year.

The Transit Working Group approved a long-term high-capacity vision earlier this year.

Transit Working Group members also took the next steps to examine financing methods to achieve a regional transit network by 2030.

The discussion and presentations focused on affordable options for regional participants as well as broad-based benefits for mobility, economic development and quality of life. A meeting replay can be streamed online here.

The City of Austin and Capital Metro will also soon recommend an urban rail project lead that will oversee the planning and outreach process to gather feedback and support for the urban rail component of the long-term regional transit plan, officials said at the Transit Working Group meeting.

Hemingson told the group, which is chaired by Mayor Lee Leffingwell and made up of leaders from the private and public sectors, that the City, Capital Metro and Lone Star Rail will work as a team with the project manager.

North Corridor Online Open House is Live!

Earlier this year, Capital Metro and our Project Connect partners held community open houses to kick-off Project Connect: North Corridor, a transportation study to address long-term mobility and access issues in the corridor that includes the communities of Georgetown, Round Rock, Pflugerville and central Austin.  Public open houses were held in two locations, including the Municipal Justice Center in Pflugerville on June 19th and Austin Energy’s Assembly Room in Austin on June 21st.

We want to hear from you!

While the community open houses were well attended, we would like to expand opportunities for the public to provide input on the project through an online open house. In as little as ten minutes, you will learn more about the 18-24 month study and be able to provide feedback about the mobility challenges you experience in the North Corridor.

The online open house is accessible via the project website at The online open house can be accessed beginning on 10/11/12 and will be available until 11/07/12. Participants can view examples of high-capacity transit options, review a number of exhibits that explain the project, use an interactive map to draw in suggested transportation alternatives and complete an online questionnaire.

We encourage you to get involved and send us your thoughts on improving mobility and access issues in the North Corridor!


Transit Working Group back in action!

After a summer hiatus, the Transit Working Group is back to work.  Recently, this group of public and private sector leaders convened by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, met to discuss potential funding options for long-term regional transportation projects, including those under study by Project Connect.

The group asked transportation agency staff to refine the proposed options and present specific plans for funding and managing regional transit and express lane investments.

A replay of the meeting is available to view online, and the presentation slides are available by download here.