Metro Finalizes Agreement For Federal Light Rail Funding

 "Houston, Metro has liftoff."

Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia kicked off events at a northside rail construction site. Officials signed a first-ever agreement bringing federal dollars to Houston for rail construction. But it's something that almost didn't happen.

"Let's remember that a little more than a year ago, we almost had to stop this project dead in its tracks."

That's Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff. He was referring to controversies during Metro's previous leadership.  The agency was investigated for violating "Buy America" provisions by purchasing rail cars from a Spanish firm. Rules state that transit vehicles for federally-funded projects have to be bought from U.S. companies. That issue and others have now been resolved.

"Really the last year has been extraordinary productive in getting the kind of transparency and clarity on fiscal controls that made us very comfortable investing taxpayer dollars in this project."

Metro has already been given $250 million of that money.  It will fund the five-mile expansion of the Red Line north of downtown. It will also pay for the Purple Line.  That route is just under seven miles. It runs from downtown to southeast Houston. 

Mayor Annise Parker says the lines will serve as a backbone of regional transit. They'll also put a lot of people to work.

"This is going to bring hundreds of jobs in construction of the rail. Those are good-paying jobs. They will help sustain our community. But once it's complete, it will also move people to their jobs and from their jobs."

A third line is also being constructed — that's the Green Line, and it's funded with local money. The trains are set to start running in 2014. 

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