Fiscal mismanagement. Unsafe bridges. Questionable ties.  

These are among the things that local media, Texas Construction magazine (see link, above), and now a state agency have called into question concerning operations at Austin's mass transit agency, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A lead story in the Austin American-Statesman on April 23 by Ben Wear, "Report slaps Cap Metro," was followed the next day with another front-page story by Wear, "Cap Metro begs to differ" and finally a Sunday, April 25, editorial,
"Austin transit agency driven into the ground by incompetence." The editorial board reports on the findings of an audit conducted by the Texas Sunset Commission. The commission's report, link here, paints a picture of an agency, to quote the Statesman, "with a tin ear and money to burn." The editorial board points out that the audit "blames poor planning ('we call it incompetence') for spending tens of millions of dollars more on the MetroRail project than originally projected."

A few days after the release of the report, Capital Metro's board approved a $1.7-million bridge replacement on its freight-only, 162-mi rail on the outskirts of Austin. By all accounts, the timing of this was coincidence.

Meanwhile, officials with Dallas' mass transit agency, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or DART, announced yesterday that it must cut a third of its spending, and to quote an article in today's Dallas Morning News, "cut jobs and scrap nearly all rail expansion plans for the next 20 years."

Texas desperately needs passenger, commuter and high-speed rail. Sadly, The Lone Star State lost out big time on the $8 billion in DOT grants allocated from ARRA funds in January. One has to wonder if Gov. Rick Perry's reluctance to take ARRA funds for highway and other projects and his refusal of funds to extend unemployment benefits was a factor. Texas got a mere $4 million, a drop in the bucket of an otherwise big gulp of rail money, and a fraction of what mostly smaller states were awarded.

Tell us what you think: Has Capital Metro been mismanaged? If so, does the mostly new Cap Metro board have its work cut out for it? Will Dallas' DART projects find other means of funding? Why didn't Texas get more money from ARRA for rail?

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