March 05, 2009
Metro approves contract with Parsons


The Metropolitan Transit Authority board of directors on Wednesday unanimously approved a $1.46 billion contract for four new light rail lines, which would add 20 miles to its lone seven-mile line along Main Street.

Under the contract, which came after almost a year of negotiations, Parsons Transportation Group is responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the new East End, Southeast, North and Uptown lines at an average cost of $73 million a mile. Metro has said the lines will be complete by 2012.

A fifth rail line, the University line, and an intermodal terminal near downtown still are planned, but are not included in the contract.

Metro officials said the agency intends to spend $632 million on the initial phase of the project, primarily on the East End line along Harrisburg as it is further along in the planning than the others.

"Today is obviously a very significant milestone in our building of the Metro Solutions program," board Chairman David Wolff said moments before the vote. "Our objective is to improve transit in Houston."

It would have been nice, of course, if the process that had gotten us here had been more open. Maybe this time that lesson will sink in. Be that as it may, after all this time I'm just glad we finally got here.

The contract includes $50 million in incentives for Parsons and the other contractors to complete the project early. Parsons and Veolia Transportation, which operates systems in 150 cities in the United States and Canada, will team up as the operations and maintenance contractor. Parsons also will be responsible for any design defects for five years after completion of the rail lines.


Jeff Moseley, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, told the Metro board that Houston's business community was pleased with the inclusion of community input to help determine whether incentives should be awarded.

Under the contract, the community and Metro leaders will "score" contractors on their ability to maintain physical access to neighborhoods and businesses during construction of the light rail expansion.

At least they learned that much from the Main Street experience. Progress!

Construction on the initial phase of the project likely will begin no earlier than June, a Metro spokesman said.

After all the delays, roadblocks, and do-overs, I'll say again that I'm just glad we've finally cleared this hurdle and can even talk about a start date for construction. Now let's make sure it doesn't start slipping so that 2012 completion goal remains plausible.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 05, 2009 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

That's four LRT lines for half the cost of the Katy Freeway. Also consider the Red Line cost us arounnd $300 million for a system now accounting for 40-45,000 trips/day.

LRT riders do not have to provide their own vehicles.

Posted by: jon boyd on March 5, 2009 7:20 AM

As a native Houstonian I fully expect the completed system to never be completely completed. Like the Gulf Freeway, it will be a work forever in progress. Which apparently is the model for the Katy Freeway.

As for reducing traffic perhaps when they get around to putting in a line along I-45 and I-10 and 59, probably in 3009, it will. Until then everyone in The Woodlands and in Katy and in Sugar Land and in Clear Lake will just simply have to use the freeways or use the Park 'N Ride bus system.

Without doubt Metro has proven to be the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars in this city and will continue to be.

That said, I do use the Main Street line and enjoy it except for the harassment by Metro Police demanding to see your ticket or Q-card.

Apparently the honor system isn't working too well. Did they really think everyone would buy a ticket? Especially after they got rid of the day passes?

Metro at least is good for the developers. And so far that seems to be the only interest Metro is serving.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on March 5, 2009 8:45 AM


"...Parsons Transportation Group is responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the new East End, Southeast, North and Uptown lines at an average cost of $73 million a mile."

sounds like the $73 million per mile is for construction. what is the contract regarding operations, maintenance and revenue, and for how long?

does the contract have any "undisclosed" clauses?

looks like parson's will not be part of financing as it was mentioned before on previous negotiations.

any thoughts on these?

Posted by: gonzalo camacho on March 5, 2009 9:17 AM

Baby Snooks-

All infrastructure systems are a work in progress. That goes for all types of infrastructure including transit, roads, highways, sewer systems, water systems, telecommunications systems, power grids, etc.

Like other light rail systems around the world, Metro Rail is a service predominantly aimed at urban, city dwellers. A commuter rail system (which this city also needs) would target the needs of commuters from the Woodlands and Katy. I would welcome such a system, along with expanded regional rail service. Sadly, this state has historically killed regional and commuter rail, instead focusing exclusively on highways and airports.

You claim the system is the "biggest waste." I realize it is shocking to people in the burbs out in BFE but there are thousands and thousands of people like myself who actually live in the city. Need I remind you, we are residents as well.

For far too long this city has essentially focused almost entirely on the wants and needs of the people in the hinterlands by providing more and more highways while essentially dismissing the needs of urban residents. Metro Rail is finally a step in the right direction. I am glad to see its expansion. This city has waited long enough for a real transit system.

Posted by: Appetitus Rationi Pareat on March 5, 2009 3:43 PM
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)