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Thursday, October 5, 2023


Bill to alter Texas travel

Houstonians may see the Metro rail and the Texas T-Bone high-speed rail system come to fruition in the coming decades, thanks to the $50 billion devoted to infrastructure in President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the $50 billion in the stimulus bill would be used to fund infrastructure projects such as building roads, light rails and high-speed rails at a luncheon in the Waldorf Astoria Room, University Hilton on March 13.

‘Forty-three of the 53 state secretaries of transportation came to Washington. Every one of the 43 had two or three or four projects. They were ready to go. I have no doubt that we’re going to spend this money,’ LaHood said.

LaHood said he planned to devote $28 billion to rebuilding roads and bridges and to fund infrastructure projects in many states. He also said Obama personally told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to set aside $8 billion for building a high-speed rail while the bill underwent negotiations in Congress.

‘We have a very good Amtrak system in America, but what the president wants to do is to send a message to America that we’re going to have high-speed rail,’ LaHood said.

LaHood also said another $8 billion dollars in the stimulus bill is planned to fund transit, light rail, community buses and facilities, which was received by roaring applause from the audience.

Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of Harris County ALF-CIO Council, predicted funding the Metro light rail system would provide thousands of jobs for Houstonians.

‘In the labor movement, we’re looking at the number of jobs that’s going to create … the training opportunities. … A lot of those construction trades programs all have apprenticeship training. We’re talking about training people from the community,’ Shaw said.

LaHood also announced plans to work with Congress on a new highway authorization bill since the current bill expires Sept. 30.

‘We are the model of the world for the interstate system, but sustainability is something that’s very, very important, and that’s what we want to get,’ LaHood said.

He also said the new authorization bill would create bike paths and opportunities for people to use alternative modes of transportation other than automobiles.

‘The interstate system in America ‘hellip; has been funded by the highway trust fund, and frankly, there’s not enough money in the highway trust fund to all the things that we want to do, so we need to think outside of the box on how we’re going to continue to fund all of our infrastructure needs and build on the highway trust fund,’ LaHood said.

LaHood concluded the speech with an invitation to track the movement of stimulus funds at the Obama administration’s Web site,

‘I think it’s a breath of fresh air in terms of public policy,’ said Peter Brown, Houston city council member at-large and adjunct professor in the graduate program of urban planning at Texas Southern University.

‘It’s a signal for significant change in federal policy related to transportation on how transportation impacts the quality and character of urban life,’ he said.

Brown said investing in public transportation would keep the U.S. competitive and green in a global economy.

‘Efficient means we’re not burning as much gas, we’re not polluting the atmosphere, we’re investing in rail transit, we’re investing in bus transit and we’re creating communities where people can walk to and from work,’ Brown said.

He also said some projections estimated the commute time for Houstonians working downtown would bubble to three hours unless ‘radical’ changes were made.

Brown cited the plans for the Texas T-Bone, a high-speed rail system connecting Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin, as one of those radical changes. He estimated a trip on the high-speed rail from Houston to Dallas would take 45 minutes.

‘This would make Texas an economic powerhouse,’ Brown said.

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