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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Metro and UH progress 2014

The history of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County and UH began with the construction of the southeast light-rail line, but the legacy of Houston public transportation dates back further than UH.

According to Engines of Our Ingenuity No. 1458, the first operation of electric streetcars in Houston began in 1891 with the publicly accessible electric transit and ended in 1940.

The METRORail opened in downtown 64 years later. The sole operating light rail, known as the Red Line, runs from UH-Downtown to the medical district. A public referendum passed in 2003 for four other lines and an extension to the Red Line, with plans to be completed by 2012.

Deadlines for the Southeast, East End, University and Uptown lines shifted after the 2008 recession partially from funding issues. Investigations from the Harris County District Attorney in 2010 added to the disorder. Continued public unrest over a lack of transparency with former members of the Metro board and conflicts of interest in the Metro Political Action Committee also had detrimental effects on the progression.

Funding for the rail lines, which comes in part from a $640 million bond approved during the 2003 referendum, is bolstered by sales tax revenues, mainly from Harris County. Metro also has a full-funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, surpassing the $640 million bond.

Southeast Line construction near the east side of Scott Street has been irregular because of problems with traffic congestion and property rights. University and Metro officials reached an agreement on Aug. 1 to continue construction of the Southeast Line on  Wheeler and Scott Streets.

“Metro continues talking and working with the University of Houston administration on details regarding construction of METRORail’s new Southeast Line,” said Jerome Gray, Metro vice president and senior press officer.

“Earlier this month, we successfully reached a deal to start the next phase of construction. Metro is doing everything possible to see that light-rail service is available to students, faculty and the southeast community in 2014.”

Construction on the southeast extension — also known as the Purple Line — runs from Smith Street downtown to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Griggs Street. According to www.gometrorail.org, the 6.6-mile route is scheduled to open in 2014.

Gate station crossings are expected near Elgin and Scott Streets, Scott and Cleburne Streets, Wheeler Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and at MacGregor Park.

However, according to Richard Bonnin, UH executive director of media relations, the property has not been worked on since the deal with Metro was made, and no further negotiations have been made since.

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