Houston light rail lines one step closer to federal funding
Washington, DC - Houston’s light rail system could receive federal funding for the first time if a bill approved by the House this week also passes the Senate in the few remaining work days of the year. If the Senate passes the bill, it will be sent to the President, who has threatened to veto it.
Twenty million dollars has been designated for Metro Phase II in the transportation appropriations bill for FY 2008 (H.R. 3074), which originally passed the House in July and the Senate in September. A compromise bill worked out between House and Senate negotiators passed the House this week (270-147) and will probably come before the Senate soon.
Also included in the appropriations bill is $100,000 for Harris County to conduct an economic development study on transit needs in Baytown and Pasadena, and a prohibition against turning highway lanes into toll lanes.
“Including this money in the Transportation bill is a huge step toward securing regular funding for Houston’s light rail,” Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said. We’re going to need more than $20 million to get this project done, but once it becomes a part of the budget, it’s likely to stay there.”
Green, who requested the light rail funding be included in the bill, also noted that Houston hadn’t received its fair share in light rail funding. “Our city is too far behind the times in providing convenient transportation for our citizens and visitors,” he said. “We’re the fourth-largest city in the country, but we rank 11th in accommodation of light rail riders, behind St. Louis and Dallas.”
Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) also requested funding. "Our success with this $20 million set aside for these two METRO rail lines or services in Congressman Gene Green's district proves that we keep our word - we will only fund those rail lines that our constituents support," he said.