February 09, 2005
Metro funding in doubt again

By the way, one of the things those TxDOT people kept mentioning last night was that mass transit, in the form of express bus and light rail service, was a key component to the overall plan to alleviate congestion on I-45 and improve mobility in the North Hardy Corridor. Apparently, no one told the Federal Transportation Administration about that.

In a report to Congress released on Tuesday, the Federal Transit Administration details rail and bus projects that it believes should get funding assistance for the fiscal year 2006. Houston MetroRail appears in a 55-page appendix listing hundreds of pending projects across the United States not ready for grants.

The "New Starts" report did not surprise Metropolitan Transit Authority officials, who said they've yet to receive a project rating from the FTA on the proposed Northline and Southeast light rail extensions. Nevertheless, they are disappointed and concerned Metro might not be able to break ground on the next rail segment in 2006 as planned.

"For people who really care about Houston and believe, as I think every intelligent person does, that transit is a necessary part of the solution to our mobility problems, it is frustrating to see the money for transit going to these other cities," said Metro board Chairman David Wolff. "It's not like the money is going to come to this city instead for highways or parks or health care."

The FTA lists 20 projects in 15 cities it would like to help fund next fiscal year. Another six are mentioned as potential funding candidates, including a third light rail line in Dallas.

Houston has long struggled to obtain federal funding for its light rail system, the first 7 1/2 -mile piece of which opened last year. Metro paid for that initial $324 million segment on its own after U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, wrote a provision into law barring any federal grants because the transit authority had not obtained voter approval to build rail.

After Metro passed a 2003 referendum calling for an 80-mile rail network by 2025, DeLay and other congressional critics dropped their opposition to federal funding, though they have continued to voice concerns over whether investing in light rail is a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

This would be a perfect opportunity for DeLay and his sidekick John Culberson to stick it to Metro on rail funding, now that voter approval is no longer an issue. "Sorry, fellas, we just can't control what those wacky folks at the FTA do. Better luck next year!" That would just suck, wouldn't it?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 09, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

Before you condemn Delay, why not wask where Shelia "Camerabait" Jackson-Lee is in the process. After all, she "campaigns" (unopposed on bringing as much federal money to Houston as she can stuff into her limo.

She failed big time once again.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on February 9, 2005 10:28 AM

Nothing passes the House without Tom DeLay's stamp of approval. If he wants to screw Metro, there's nothing SJL can do about it.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 9, 2005 10:53 AM

Not a wise use of taxpayer money? I'm guessing we can find a bajillion unwise uses of taxpayer money currently going on. The one we have here in Dallas has been a fantastic use of taxpayer money. Keep up the good work down there.

Posted by: Jim on February 9, 2005 1:40 PM

CK - If she's going to take credit for all the money coming into Houston from Uncle Sam, then she sure as heck can take the blame when hundreds of millions of dollars don't come this way, forcing Houston to settle for a street-level Danger Train instead of a World Class elevated system.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on February 9, 2005 3:13 PM

It does suck, in so many ways.

You know, addressing the biggest traffic problem in the fourth largest city in America might be a wise use of taxpayer dollars. Then again, I'm another one of those damn spend-thrift liberals.

Incidentally, Kuff, I was up interviewing for a job off of Houston Ave. today. I see why re-routing I-45 would be a disaster.

Posted by: Jim D on February 9, 2005 6:46 PM

Comment sent to Viewpoints this morning:

METRO's Boondoggle Expansion Derailed For The Moment

We now have a narrow window of opportunity to figuratively try and drive a stake through the Main Street "Alligator's" cold-blooded, wasteful heart.

METRO should now focus on allocating precious taxpayer resources towards rubber-tired solutions so as to reestablish bus service to the tens of thousands of bus transit dependent poor, minority, elderly and handicapped citizens throughout the service area.

God Bless House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for his right-minded leadership. I appreciate the FTA in not allowing Houston taxpayers to become "side tracked" with any more boondoggle urban rail.

Posted by: Tom Bazan on February 9, 2005 6:58 PM

It is time for the METRO Board to step down, if they can not bring to the table away to fund this project. There is no way that they did not know that asking for 100 percent of the funding from the fed was going to do any thing but kill this needed project.

Posted by: Northside on February 10, 2005 5:43 PM