The 13-2 vote, with Council members Jolanda Jones and Mike Sullivan opposed, paves the way for Metro to break ground next month, probably on the East End line. Metro says it can complete all five by 2012.
Council's approval also came after two amendments requested by Councilwoman Pam Holm and Metro's statement that it would reconsider plans to build parts of the Southeast and University lines on Wheeler Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the Third Ward.
Jones said she had concerns about the Wheeler route and about Metro's credibility and allegedly favorable treatment of wealthy neighborhoods over less affluent ones. She cited Metro's decision to take the western University Line segment across the Southwest Freeway to avoid opposition from wealthy Afton Oaks, while choosing a route on Wheeler, in part because it would cost less than alternatives.
Sullivan was not immediately available for comment, but his district includes the Clear Lake area and Kingwood -- neither of which would be reached by the five planned light rail routes.
Metro President and CEO Frank Wilson said a meeting among Metro and city officials and stakeholders along the Wheeler routes will be held, possibly Monday, to hear residents' concerns and discuss possible alternatives.
Wilson said obtaining federal funding approval for any resulting route changes may be possible with only a few weeks' delay, but that was not certain.
Speaking of moving forward, the most recent Metro email newsletter, from last week, gave an update on the Scarborough lawsuit that wasn't reported at the time:
Update on legal action against METRO
Earlier this week the plaintiff in Daphne Scarbrough vs. METRO amended her petition to drop all but one of her claims against the transit agency.
The initial lawsuit, filed approximately a year ago, claims that METRO violated the 2003 referendum in a number of ways, including issues related to:
- General Mobility payments to City of Houston
- Financing of the light-rail expansion
- Bus service expansion
- Technology of the guideway rapid transit (GRT)
- Construction of a portion of the light-rail alignment on Richmond Ave.
Now, the only claim remaining is the one related to light rail construction on Richmond Ave.
METRO continues to vigorously defend itself from this claim and deny that such a violation took place.