Metro Gets Official OK For New Light Rail Lines

The Federal Transit Administration says it's impressed with the way Metro has spelled out how much the light rail extensions will cost, how long they'll take to build, and that the agency can handle the project.

That means Metro now officially has permission to do things like purchase right-of-way along the routes, move utilities where needed, and put the finishing touches on the final plans.ξ

But Metro broke ground on the North and Southeast lines more than a month agoξ —ξ weeks before the FTA formally gave its blessing.ξξ John Haley is Metro's Vice-President for Infrastructure and Service Development.ξ He says, in some cases, work can begin ahead of official approval, because it can take months to order and receive things like rail car vehicles.

"And by moving forward with those ahead of the absolute final design, it's a show of confidence on the part of the Federal Government in Metro's program.ξ But also it allows us to ensure we stick with the schedule. "

Haley also says getting the line extensions underway sooner, rather than waiting, has another key benefit.

"We're in a position to take a look at the cost of various construction materials and buy them at a low point, therefore saving money over the long haul."

The first phase of the north and southeast extensions will cost 632 million dollars.ξ It'll be sometime in the fall before Metro knows how much the federal government will pick up.ξ The north line will run from the UH downtown campus to the Northline Mall.ξ The southeast line will connect downtown with a new transit center near Mykawa and the south loop.ξ Both lines are expected to be completed in 2012.
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