The Federal Transit Administration is committed to helping the Metropolitan Transit Authority qualify for funding of two light rail lines by the end of the year, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Tuesday.
Hutchison's statement came after a closed-door meeting in her Washington office, where FTA Administrator James Simpson and Deputy Administrator Sherry Little talked with Mayor Bill White, Metro President and CEO Frank Wilson, board chairman David Wolff and a bipartisan congressional delegation from the Houston area.
Hutchison, R-Texas, said Simpson was committed to the same goal as the delegation, "and that is a full funding grant agreement by the end of the year."
Such an agreement would ensure that Metro could complete the two lines, provided it followed required federal procedures.
So far, Metro has pushed the projects forward with a series of small grants for preliminary studies.
Metro has applied for $500 million in federal aid to build the North and Southeast lines. Hutchison said the full funding agreement is important because "once that is committed to by the FTA, then it automatically goes into the budget and we don't have to fight for it."
Federal officials had questioned the level of public support for the light rail system, and the meeting was intended as a show of unity. Hutchison said the delegation "made quite an impression."