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

09/09/10 5:32pm

Those trains from Spain that gave the feds cause to complain yesterday are gonna delay the completion of all three light-rail lines now under construction, Metro announced today. The transit agency backed off its earlier ETA for the North, Southeast, and East End lines, saying that meeting the previously announced October 2013 completion date is no longer feasible. The problem: getting at $900 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, which Metro had been expecting to arrive soon. The FTA is now requiring a promise from the transit agency to rebid the railcar contract before it’ll continue considering the application for the bulk of those funds. Sez Metro: “A delay of up to one year is anticipated.”

Drawing of future Southeast Corridor light rail line on MLK near Madalyn Ln.: Metro

09/08/10 12:14pm

FEDS TO METRO: BACK OFF THE SPANISH TRAINS AND WE’LL FUND YOUR NORTH AND SOUTHEAST LINES Calling the results of its 4-month-long investigation “both alarming and disturbing,” the Federal Transit Administration scolded Houston’s transit agency for systematically trying to bypass federal rules in the signing of 2 light-rail-vehicle contracts with a Spanish manufacturer. But the violations won’t derail funding for the light rail lines — as long as Metro’s new management team promises to rebid the contract and follow federal “Buy America” rules. A letter from FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said Houston commuters shouldn’t be punished for Metro’s violations: “The Administration still believes that the North and Southeast Corridor projects have merit and we stand behind our Fiscal Year 2011 budget request of $150 million for the two projects.” [FTA]