Metro hopes to restore 900 million dollars in federal transportation grants. They were put on hold because it had violated Buy America rules when two light rail contracts were awarded to a Spanish rail car vendor. Transit president and CEO George Greanias says the Houston legislative delegation supports restoration of the full funding grant agreements.
"They sent us three letters, which allow us to move forward on the paving work on the North and the Southeast lines, which are federally funded. That's probably the single biggest difficulty for the people in those areas, is having the disruption and those streets being torn up. We're now going to be in the business of paving those streets, getting rid of the orange cones, and our work from then on will be limited to the middle of the street, where we're doing the tracks and the trains... or the tracks and the stations, rather."
Greanias says he expects that funding to be restored sometime in the summer. But the disruption has delayed completion of the projects located in North and Southeast Houston.
"We're now saying October of '14, about a year. That more now is a matter of the cars. Because as you know, the Federal Transit Administration said if you want that full funding grant agreement, that $900-million dollars, you need to re-procure the rail cars. But to do that, it's going to take probably a year longer than originally anticipated, which means that our tracks and our stations will be finished before the cars are here, whereas before we were thinking that the cars would be here before the tracks and the stations were finished."
Greanias says METRO is moving as quickly as it can to complete the rail projects .
"The big thing now is to get out of people's way in terms of the street disruptions. That's the single biggest thing we can do to make everybody's life a little easier. We are really intent on doing that as quick as we can."