Big Step in New Southeast Light Rail Expansion

Metro's new Southeast Light Rail line expansion is taking a big step, with the first installation of actual track set for later this month. As Jack Williams reports — the project is helping Houston's light rail system grow-up a little bit.

"Today marks another milestone in the expansion of Houston's light rail system."

Standing just a few feet away from workers welding steel rail near a section of East End right-of-way, David Couch, Metro's Sr. VP for capital programs, says it's taken a long time to get to this point, actually putting rail in the ground.

"Up until now, it has been principally utilities and road work. This is something that changes it from a character that had principally appeared as a road project or a utility project into something that actually turns it into a rail system."

Workers are welding 80-foot sections of rail together to make longer, 480-foot lengths that will be laid into the cement rail bed that's been prepared.

"This is a little over a six-mile extension and it will basically provide a two-line system for Houston in that we currently have the north-south line on Main Street. This will then give us a true light rail system that will operate in two directions and be able to bring individuals into the inner city." 

The Southeast line will start in the downtown area at Bagby, will swing into the East End, then across 45, along the University of Houston campus and eventually terminate at Griggs. Metro's Jose Enriquez is the program manager for the Southeast Corridor. He knows the construction chaos is hard to deal with for some residents and businesses.  

"They're anxious to see the end result and we hear that all the time, let's get the train going. But we have to go through all this first. We do have to relocate the utilities, build a new road where it's required, construct the guide-way. It's a step by step process and it take a long time." 

Southeast Rail The Southeast line, along with several other lines under construction right now, are expected to be complete by early 2014.

"What we see right now is just the first expansion part and somewhere down in the future you're going to see expansions that kind of feed off of this. But you have to get outside the inner-city area in order to accommodate some of the further reaching rail projects. What I mean by that is you're going to have commuter rail and all these other things that you hear about and that will tie-in to some of the systems that we're putting in today."  

Metro expects 95-hundred riders per day when the Southeast line is complete. The overall expansion, which includes the North, East End, Uptown and University lines, could include close to 40 miles of track.  

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...