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Local Effort Seeks a Billion Dollars to Pay for Mobility Plan

METRO plans to ask Congress for $1 billion in federal transportation funding. The money would partly fund the development of METRO’s next phase of light rail and rapid transit. The announcement came after several days of talks with the Houston Congressional Delegation. METRO board members were able to gain the support of the entire delegation, […]

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METRO plans to ask Congress for $1 billion in federal transportation funding. The money would partly fund the development of METRO’s next phase of light rail and rapid transit.

The announcement came after several days of talks with the Houston Congressional Delegation. METRO board members were able to gain the support of the entire delegation, including key members House Majority Leader Tom Delay and Rep. John Culberson. The delegation will move forward with eight elements of a congressional action plan to secure the $1 billion over the next ten years. Houston Mayor Bill White says this plan must be honest, transparent and accurate.

METRO Board Chairman David Wolff says the grant is not a sure bet because the Federal Transit Administration has only $9 billion dollars in grants to distribute, but METRO is sure enough to begin preliminary engineering on new light rail and bus rapid transit corridors this summer.

Under the new mobility plan 30 more miles of light rail lines would be added, although on several sections buses would run for a while before fully implementing the more expensive light rail cars. But not everyone is enthusiastic about the plan. David Hutzelman is the president of BusCar, an anti-rail group that promotes the use of buses and cars. He says light rail is a political success but a transportation failure and it’s the people who are transit dependent who pay the price.

If the FTA approves the grant, METRO would likely be required to match the grant with $1 billion from local funds. That money would come from bonds paid off primarily with sales tax. METRO plans to hold a series of public meetings in the communities affected by the changes. Construction would start within two years.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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