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Metro signs Full Funding Grant Agreement

Full speed ahead.

The head of the Federal Transit Administration on Monday signed $900 million in grant agreements to help pay for two Houston light-rail lines under construction by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The grants, the first federal funds ever provided for rail in Houston, were formally approved in a ceremony attended by the FTA chief, Peter Rogoff, Mayor Annise Parker, Metro officials, local members of Congress and others. They will pay half the costs of the North and Southeast lines, scheduled for completion in 2015, which will extend Houston’s light-rail network by 12 miles.

Local officials have been trying to secure the federal funds since voters approved a plan to expand Metro’s rail network in 2003.

It took a hell of a long time, and it nearly got derailed thanks to the previous Metro regime and its Buy America foolishness, but it got done. And remember, some people said it would never happen.

Here’s Metro’s press release:

METRO Inks Houston’s First Ever Full Funding Grants for Light Rail

Houston’s light-rail expansion is now cleared to receive $900 million dollars as part of two federal Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA).  A special signing ceremony for the grants was held [Monday] morning at a rail expansion construction site overlooking downtown. The observation at 800 Burnett St. brought METRO officials together with FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and a host of elected officials to sign long-awaited FFGAs for the North and Southeast rail lines.

Gilbert Garcia, chairman of the New METRO’s Board of Directors says, “The rail expansion team, METRO Board members, past and present and our entire staff, past and present, should be proud of accomplishing an enormous task. We’ve never lost sight of the prize and finally it is Houston’s. We thank all the community patriots for all their help in making this day happen. This is a major investment in the region that will not only create jobs but boost economic development.”

METRO President & CEO George Greanias says “The $900 million federal grants more than double the local dollars being used to construct the 5.3 mile North (Red) extension* and the 6.6 mile Southeast (Purple)* lines and mark the first time rail projects here have received FFGAs. This is a great example of how we can leverage our local dollars to improve mobility in the region.”

The total construction cost for the two lines is $1.6 billion dollars. Each line is receiving a $450 million dollar FFGA. The federal government has already set aside $484.5 million dollars for the two projects as part of the FFGAs. Of that amount, METRO has received $84.5 million dollars. The transit agency expects to continue receiving the federal funding over the next few years.

More than 30 percent of commuters heading into the downtown area and the Texas Medical Center ride METRO. The rail expansion approved by Houston voters in 2003 includes the North (Red) Line and extends the current Main St. Line starting at UHD to the Northline Transit Center, Houston Community College and Northline Commons Mall. The Southeast (Purple) Line connects downtown with local universities including Texas Southern University and the University of Houston central campus. The two federally funded lines and a third, locally funding East End (Green) Line currently under construction, are all expected to be completed by 2014.

For PDFs of work being performed see: METRORail North Line Construction Map – Nov. (PDF) METRORail Southeast Line Construction Map – Nov. (PDF)

The Harrisburg line is also under construction, but it is using only local funds. Still out there waiting their turn are the Universities line, the Uptown line, which will also be built with local funds but is entirely dependent on the completion of the Universities line to be feasible, and the Inner Katy Line, which was on the 2003 referendum but was not officially part of the 2012 Solutions plan. The Universities line received a Record of Decision (ROD) on the Universities line last July, and now awaits final design approval, which had been hung up to a degree by the other Metro projects in the queue ahead of it and now is waiting for Congress to get its act together and pass an adequate transportation bill so there will be more New Starts funds to grant. An Inner Katy line will likely be part of a larger next phase project – Metro Solutions 2020 or some such – that may be packaged together for another vote. I’m mostly speculating here, but such a line makes all kinds of sense and is already supported by the neighborhood. What it needs now is a funding source.

That’s something farther out to look forward to. For now, we have the North and Southeast lines and their historic funding agreement. It’s a good day for Metro and for Houston. The Metro blog and Dallas Transportation have more.

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6 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    Great, more money for the incompetents at Metro to waste building toy trains that serve no useful purpose while depriving the poor of efficient bus service. The destruction wrought on the residents and businesses along the construction is a nice feature too.

  2. joshua bullard says:

    ross-you have either lost your mind on this issue or have been living under a box for the last 5 years-

    RAIL/ROCKS and i love it-heres why-you got to ride it to experience it -rail is this reason i went so very light on mayor brown.listen ross-nobody wants to be on some long ass bus that has to stop at every damn light- we want the straight shot,there has only been one big problem with rail from the begining-not enough of it-thank god we are finally seeing more rail in houston-weve needed it for over twenty years. and another thing rossie-dont hold your breath on a pack of poor people demonstrating in front of metro protesting rail-its only “a select” people that will never use it that dont want to help poor people get a hand up—-

    you should be ashamed of yourself ross for such an idiot comment,go jump in a lake with no floaties………..rossie

    rail rocks-joshua ben bullard

  3. robert kane says:

    $133 million a mile seems like a bargain to me,lol

    The light rail doesn’t serve Houston much better than a bus, we need grade separated solutions. There is a guy from Houston of all places that holds the patent on this, which I think is amazing http://www.tubularrail.com

    I am from the Northeast and grew up riding the train, however, the plans METRO has for the city doesn’t resemble anything I see in other major cities where people actually use it.

    I’m not a planning expert and don’t have all the answers but I know what I won’t use and this is A LOT of money per mile in my opinion.

  4. Mike says:

    Ultimately Houston will have grade separated transit as well, but don’t hold your breath for it. We would need a lot of money for it, something people will probably eventually be supportive of – similar to LA’s recent efforts to build 30 years worth of transit in 10 years (or whatever it is).

    In the meantime, rail is way better than no rail – grade separated or not.

  5. […] had signed the full funding grant agreement with the FTA last November, and had received some funds for the North and Southeast lines last June. I don’t recall if […]

  6. […] more on the full funding grant agreement they received from the FTA in 2011. Metro received a similar amount of money in 2012. Nice to know […]