Last month, the Federal Transit Administration sent the first $50 million of the grant money for use on the North and Southeast lines. Last week, the FTA issued pre-clearance letters Metro needed before it could proceed with more than $12 million worth of projects for which it is relying on federal reimbursements. Ultimately, the FTA will pay about half the cost of the North and Southeast lines.
“This is just further evidence that we’re on track and the relationship with the FTA is progressing,” said Metro board Chairman Gilbert Garcia, one of five board members appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker last year to try to rescue the jeopardized federal grant money.
The pre-clearance letters are a bureaucratic step, but they also put construction crews to work almost immediately to get the orange cones off streets Metro left scarred when it put the brakes on rail construction last year.
A subsequent press release from Metro spells out where these construction crews will be:
Construction activity for the North Line includes the start of communications duct banks, concrete pavement, sidewalks and asphalt paving on Fulton Street from Cavalcade to IH – 610, and from Boundary to Collingsworth. In addition, construction can begin on the new bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad and the retrofit of the Main Street Bridge at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Work on the Southeast Line includes the start of communications duct banks, concrete pavement, sidewalks and asphalt paving on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd from Winnetka to just north of Griggs Road and on Scott Street from Polk to Coyle.
Also as part of the North Line project, new construction activity will occur at METRO’s Rail Operations Center at Fannin South, including installation of tracks for rail vehicles in the maintenance yard, construction of an expanded parking lot for maintenance vehicles and expansion of the building.
Next up, hopefully, is the FTA’s blessing on the new plan for buying rail cars, which would begin this month if allowed. The current timeline, which has these routes opening in late 2014, will be much more secure if that happens.