March 25, 2005
Metro gets FTA approval for two more lines

Some good news for Metro today.

The Federal Transit Administration's notice of intent to approve preliminary engineering next month for the Main Street light rail extension to Northline Mall and a new line to the southeast side clears a major hurdle for the Metropolitan Transit Authority's efforts to obtain half the projects' costs from Washington. The action is critical because it's difficult to obtain congressional appropriations for rail lines without the FTA's stamp of approval.


Metro submitted its two projects for federal review in August, hoping to obtain a recommendation by February, when the FTA makes its annual report to Congress. The MetroRail lines were not rated in that report last month, however, and the federal agency said at the time it was still reviewing the application.

The FTA rates proposed rail projects on criteria including construction and operating costs compared to forecasted ridership, land use, mobility improvements and environmental benefits.

Houston still has numerous steps toward obtaining the $390 million it needs for the 50 percent federal match on the Northline and Southeast sections. Voters approved the lines in 2003 and authorized bonds to finance the local share.

It's a start, and after the earlier unpleasantness it's a good thing to have behind them.

Anne says that Rep. John Culberon deserves the credit for this and that he's been made out to be an undeserving bad guy all the way through. That's certainly one way to look at it. I look at it this way:

"This is a first sign from the FTA that the light rail projects were positively reviewed and cleared to move forward," said Chris Paulitz, spokeswoman for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "This is an important step toward completion of the Houston Metro system."


Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, who sits on the House transportation appropriations subcommittee, said he will ask Congress to fund MetroRail at the same level as other projects.

"Metro is entitled to receive funding for preliminary engineering and I will submit their application for funding at a level proportional to similar projects in other cities," he said. "I will work to ensure Houston receives its fair share of transit funding."

Which one of these two public officials sounds happy about this news, and which one sounds grudging? If he wants credit for this, he ought to at least sound like he'd consider that credit a good thing. Culberson claims he helped Metro with its FTA paperwork initially. Maybe that's true. We've got his word for it. We've also got his long and loud public opposition to Metro and its rail plan. I trust you'll forgive me if I remain skeptical.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 25, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

Regardless of the fact that METRO continues to eliminate bus service to the poor, minority, elderly and handicapped bus transit dependent riders, and as fare box revenue plunges, the FTA, with the blessing of Sen. Hutchison, has approved METRO's funding application for TWO wasteful extensions to the unsafe and underutilized boondoggle tram.

It appears that the worse the tram performed, ie., 81 collisions, miniscule revenue causing METRO to borrow $93 million for FY2005 operations, and gutting bus service throughout the service area, the greater the effort became to fund the extensions to the demented "demolition derby" on Main Street.

Taxpayers have no say in how our precious resources are squandered by METRO! It seems as if the bureaucracy is addicted to the euphoria of building these bloated European Socialist-style systems, and to hell with the citizens throughout the service area who pay the sales tax yet get little or no transit service.

Posted by: Tom Bazan on March 26, 2005 5:31 AM