Talk too much? ATP board member questions the money spent on communications for Project Connect

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Written by Bill Wilson, Editor

The cost of Austin’s Connect project has grown from just over $5 billion to over $10 billion.

The current debate surrounding Austin’s Connect project is how much money it will take to establish a consistent buzz with the community.

According to Austin Transit Partnership (ATP), which oversees Project Connect, it will take 19 communication stations to keep people informed. The ATP’s $90 million budget for 2023 was approved recently, but the amount did not suit board member Tony Elkins. Following the announcement that Project Connect would now cost $10.3 billion, an increase of nearly $5 billion from original estimates, Elkins believed the ATP should be more concerned with budget line items. ATP will pay approximately $30 million to an engineering consulting firm and fill 19 communications positions. Elkins said payroll expenses will reach about $79 million in 2023.

Austin Mayor and ATP Board Member Steve Adler has proposed adding a guideline that would give the board the ability to intervene if more positions are added. Elkins concurred in the amendment and voted to approve the budget, which passed unanimously.

ATP budget director Diane Siler also said the ATP is still working on the contract with the engineering consultant and the money has already been allocated. The 2023 budget reduces personnel costs by $2 million compared to the 2022 budget. Eighty-seven full-time employees have been authorized for the next year. There are currently 35 vacancies.

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