01/23/15 3:15pm

METRO PONDERS HOW TO SPEND A LIGHT RAIL SURPLUS Burnett Station, North Line Extension, HoustonWhat should Metro do with the extra $39.9 million it’ll end up with after the Southeast and East End rail lines open in April (on the 11th, it now looks like)? If the money isn’t spent, it’ll have to go back to the Federal Transit Administration, reports Dug Begley. $24.9 million of that would have to be spent on projects related to the year-plus-old North Line extension (the Red line), and $14.5 million would be restricted to use on the Southeast Line (aka the Purple Line). Among the proposals: building an elevated walkway between the bus transit center and the rail line at Northline; putting in extra parking at Palm Center, at the end of the Purple Line; shelters for bus stops near stations; an additional station on the Purple Line between Elgin and Leeland; safety or operational improvements, such as a restroom for train operators at a station; a crossing arm on Texas Ave. near Chartres St. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Burnett Station: Skyline Art Services

12/18/13 12:45pm

Installation of Red Line Signage, Preston Station, Main St. Line, Houston

For 10 years, you’ve known it as Houston’s only light-rail line, so what did it matter that we called the Main St. line? But in advance of 2 separate advance lines opening up next year, it’s got a color too: The Red Line. You can see workers installing signage with the “Red Line” designation in the photo above. When was that photo taken?


Metro’s New Colors
11/05/13 3:45pm

There’s been a Metro train siting at the new Quitman station of the North Line extension, just south of the train’s turnoff from North Main, reader Joel Balderas reports. Unlike earlier appearances, the train appears to be operating under its own power. Here’s the photo evidence:


05/28/13 5:15pm

The very first train graced the tracks of the North Line light rail extension earlier today — though this was only a test, says Metro’s Christof Spieler. That explains why you can’t see in this photo taken near the Burnett Transit Center north of Downtown any overhead wires — the train was being towed by a diesel tractor. (Diesel tractor not pictured.) And it explains why you can see that foam bumper: That, says Spieler, was meant to catch anything built too close to the tracks. More test train should be running all by themselves this fall, he adds, and full service is scheduled to go in December.

Photo: Christof Spieler via Swamplot inbox

08/28/12 11:22am

How far along is construction on the 3 rail lines Metro is building? A little more than a year ago, HAIF user ricco67 took a video camera along on drives following the paths of each soon-to-be rail route, and posted the results. With the completion of a video taken alongside the East End Line construction from Downtown to the Magnolia Transit Center posted yesterday (above), you can now spot-check progress in updated tours of each of them.

Ricco67’s update showing construction on the Southeast Line dates from last month:


07/02/12 5:07pm

LIGHT RAIL SCORECARD: 6 MILES DOWN, 9 TO GO, CULBERSON BLOCKING GOAL Metro says it’s now laid 6 miles of track for the 3 light-rail lines its working on — the new East End and Southeast Lines and the North Line extension. And construction is now under way on 10 of 24 new stations. All is on track for a 2014 opening date, including $200 million of federal funds for 2 of those lines, approved by a vote in the House of Representatives last Friday. Also approved within the same bill, though: Congressman John Culberson’s ban on federal funding for both the Uptown Line and the long-delayed University Line. A House-Senate conference committee will determine if the funding block remains in the bill’s final version. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Metro

12/28/11 11:37am

Reader Heidi Hagen’s photos of construction on the North Line along N. Main St. north of UH-Downtown show the new bridge that’s “popped up outta nowhere” around Hogan St. No, there’s no rainbow at the north end of Downtown, but if you look carefully from the right far vantage point can see the elevated concrete and steel construction that’ll be carrying an extension to the existing rail line over the Union Pacific railroad tracks to further points north: Lindale Park, the Northline Transit Center, and 6 other newly named stations. More bridge pix from earlier in the month:


12/20/11 7:04pm

16 of the 25 official station names announced today for Metro’s new East End and Southeast light-rail lines and North Line extension include slashes. No, you won’t need to choose between Cesar Chavez and 67th Street: The Cesar Chavez/67th St. station will honor both. Same for MacGregor Park/MLK. The term “EaDo” has made it on to a station name — but only as part of the EaDo/Stadium team — not to be called “EaDo Stadium” of course, since Spanish bank BBVA Compass just paid a lot of money for the exclusive naming rights to the new soccer venue.

A few other station names you’ll want to be careful with:


10/05/11 12:50pm

A reader sends in this photo showing the results of a recent heavy metal delivery to the median of Fulton St. across from Moody Park: Rails, for the coming 5.3-mile North Line extension to Lindale Park. Swamplot’s Northside construction correspondent reports the street appears paved and ready for the tracks to be installed.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

07/22/11 12:51pm

If you can’t wait just those few more years to hop on the new light-rail line serving the East End, this automotive video approximation might tide you over. HAIF poster ricco67’s tracing of the drivable portions of the route from the new Smith St. station on the western edge of Downtown (shared with the new Southeast Line) to the Magnolia Transit Center provides snapshots of construction progress and a steady diet of orange construction barrels. Also available: these shorter tours showing progress on the Southeast Line and the coming extension to the existing North Line:


05/06/11 12:13pm

See that map up there, showing all the stations on Metro’s planned light-rail lines? Metro is asking the public for help naming those stations. But not the stations that don’t have any names indicated next to them — the transit agency isn’t quite yet ready to get to those. No, Metro wants your help choosing names for the stations that are already marked with names. Like, the “Burnett Transit Center.” What should that station be named? Anyone? Anyone? And how about the one marked “Boundary”? Any suggestions? Spicoli?

This is, of course, the best kind of call for submissions. If you can do better than what they’ve already got, go ahead! If you can’t beat what’s there already, why bother? And you can get an idea what the fallback is gonna be, if all the suggestions suck. Just think what we might have ended up calling East Downtown if that naming “contest” had been pitched like this: Yeah, we’re threatening to name this area EaDo — unless you stop us, with something better. How well would that have worked?

You can get a sense of where the stations are planned for the new North, East End, and Southeast Lines from these maps:


02/22/11 1:07pm

Has Metro ever made a more expensive mistake than spending $42 million on a contract with a Spanish rail-car construction firm that violated federal procurement rules? Now that the American subsidiary of Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles has agreed to return $14 million of that money, the answer is yes: That would be the $41 million Houston’s transit agency reports it spent on developing an intermodal terminal at the corner of Main and Burnett streets just north of Downtown. Metro CEO George Greanias confirms the agency has given up on the design (above), which would have included a giant octopus-like dome, bus bays, a commuter rail terminal, a “kiss-and-ride” area, and maybe a Metro RideStore, restrooms, newsstands, food stands, and gift shops. There will still be a Burnett Transit Center station with a North Line rail stop, but Greanias tells the Chronicle‘s Chris Moran the trashed design would have been too expensive to run. Metro may have even killed the bus station part: Greanias says they haven’t decided whether any other modes of transit will connect to the light-rail line at that location.

Image: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects

01/04/11 11:18am

WORK ON THE NEW LIGHT RAIL LINES Construction crews are back at work on the North and Southeast rail lines and federal funds have been flowing again to Metro, Chris Moran reports. Late last year, the transit agency was able to cancel the notorious $330 million contract with a Spanish railcar vendor that violated federal procurement rules — but it won’t get back the $27 million it already spent: “Last month, the Federal Transit Administration sent the first $50 million of the grant money for use on the North and Southeast lines. Last week, the FTA issued pre-clearance letters Metro needed before it could proceed with more than $12 million worth of projects for which it is relying on federal reimbursements. Ultimately, the FTA will pay about half the cost of the North and Southeast lines.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

10/21/10 2:58pm

METRO LIGHT RAIL CONSTRUCTION SLOWS TO A CRAWL More repercussions from Metro’s Spanish-train procurement fiasco and the transit agency’s ensuing budget crisis: This morning CEO George Greanias announced dramatic cutbacks on all new light-rail construction until the future of the project’s federal funding becomes clearer. This year’s expansion budget is being cut by almost 70 percent, but the project is not shutting down completely — because doing so would cost an additional $200 million, Greanias and board chairman Gilbert Garcia said. Left to lope along until the end of the year: Utility work on the North and Southeast Lines, and utility and road work in “select areas” of the East End Line [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot]

09/10/10 1:12pm

92 EMINENT DOMAIN CASES ON 3 LINES: METRO’S LIGHT RAIL LAND ACQUISITION SCORECARD Nick Boulos’s former Shell station on the corner of MLK and Old Spanish Trail “is among 133 pieces of property [Metro] has acquired along the Southeast Corridor, including 27 in which Metro invoked eminent domain. Of those, 21 (including Boulos’) were settled by negotiation. Another 7 remain to be mediated or possibly settled in court. In the East End, METRO has obtained 135 parcels, filed 47 eminent domain cases, and settled 33 by negotiation, leaving 14 for mediation or the courtroom. On the Northside, METRO has acquired 113 total pieces of property, filed 18 eminent domain cases, and settled 16 by negotiation, leaving 2 for mediation or the courtroom.” [Fox 26] Rendering of Southeast Line on MLK between Griggs Rd. and OST: Metro