$900m awarded to extend Houston’s light rail system

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has sealed two agreements providing $900 million in federal funds to extend Houston’s major light rail system by an additional 12 miles.

The two projects being funded, the North and Southeast lines, are already under construction, with over 400 workers on the job now and 1,800 additional jobs expected over the next two years.

“The Obama Administration is proud to support Houston’s ongoing efforts to offer more good transportation choices that improve access to jobs and the region’s many attractions, while reducing area congestion, pollution, and our dependence on oil,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

“We need to invest in strong transportation systems like this one to lay a solid foundation for future economic growth.”

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff was joined by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Representatives Gene Green, Al Green, and Sheila Jackson Lee, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and officials from Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) at the signing ceremony for the two full-funding grant agreements.

“The fourth largest city in the United States deserves a world class transit system that will meet the region’s needs for the 21st century, and the investments we are making today will accomplish that,” Administrator Rogoff said.

“The residents of Houston understand that good public transportation is key to building a successful, sustainable, and competitive environment to do business while creating thousands of good jobs along the way.”

Expanding Houston METRO’s light rail service to the north and the southeast is part of the city’s sweeping plan to connect Houston’s workforce with major downtown employment centers, including the Texas Medical Center and the University of Houston.

With 18 new passenger stops along the way, the expanded light rail will also take riders to Reliant Park, Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, a new major league soccer stadium now under construction, the Museum District, and the George R. Brown Convention Center/Discovery Green Park.

The new light rail lines, both scheduled to open for service in 2015, will provide alternatives to congested Interstate 45 and U.S. Route 59.

They are expected to carry more than 58,000 riders on weekdays, including more than 13,000 new transit riders a day, by the year 2030.

The two $450 million grant agreements signed today are funded through FTA’s New Starts capital transit discretionary grant program.


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