It is what it is. But maybe, just maybe, there’s now a sell-by date on it.
Houston may have stopped building light rail lines, but the fight over them rages on — right to Washington where Rep. John Culberson again has inserted language keeping tracks off Richmond and Post Oak.
For the fifth consecutive year, Culberson, R-Houston, added language to the draft of the House appropriations bill for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, specific to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. Section 163 of the THUD bill, as it’s called, bars federal officials from spending money that “advance in any way a new light or heavy rail project … if the proposed capital project is constructed on or planned to be constructed on Richmond Avenue west of South Shepherd Drive or on Post Oak Boulevard north of Richmond Avenue.”
The area in question is within Culberson’s district, and he vigorously has opposed any light rail projects along Richmond, citing resident opposition and his belief that Metro deceived voters when it narrowly won approval for a “Westpark” rail line in 2003.
In the draft bill released Monday, the language provides for Metro to regain federal funding if it wins voter approval that specifically identifies a route along Richmond and Post Oak as part of a region-wide comprehensive plan for transit.
“The ballot language shall include reasonable cost estimates, sources of revenue to be used and the total amount of bonded indebtedness to be incurred as well as a description of each route and the beginning and end point of each proposed transit project.
Metro, meanwhile is working on a regional transit plan, holding the first of 24 community meetings on Monday night in Cypress. That leaves Metro a long way from any work along Richmond, Metro CEO Tom Lambert said.
“I think, quite frankly, we’re at a point in time right now where we need to see what we should be doing,” Lambert said.
We are familiar with the drill by now. Metro is working on that regional transportation plan, and I feel reasonably confident that a Universities Line 2.0 will be part of it. It just makes sense. We may get to vote on a new referendum next year, at a time when Culberson will be facing his most competitive race in a decade. I have to assume there will be some public discussion about this between now and then. Let’s just say that I welcome the debate.