Metro Updates Progress On New Light Rail Lines

As Metro prepares to receive millions of dollars in federal funds for light rail construction, officials say work is progressing on three new lines. Along with construction comes headaches for local residents and businesses, but Metro officials say they're hoping to keep those to a minimum.

Metro Senior Vice-President David Couch points out a busy construction site on the north side, where crews are preparing to put down rails for the Red Line. It's an extension of the line that passes through the Medical Center and downtown.  It's one of three projects now underway to expand Houston's light rail.

"What we will have by 2014, is we will have 14 miles of new rail in town.  It will be the work that we're getting done on the six-mile southeast line, five miles on the north line, three miles on the east end, and then the existing seven-and-a-half mile starter system."

The work is happening in three phases: first there's the utility work; then come street and sidewalks improvements; in the final phase crews lay down the tracks. 

"We take one particular stretch, do the work on one side, switch to the other side, and maintain access as throughly as we possibly can."

Couch says they're doing the work in segments to avoid problems businesses and residents experienced along Main Street during the construction of the original line 10 years ago. 

"If you look at what happens when we get the roadway completed, and we're working only on the tracks in the center, that's minimal effect, because we're basically in the configuration that the light rail will be."

But Couch says despite the new construction schedule, he knows businesses are inconvenienced.  Parking lot access is often difficult and crews have to put up temporary signs.  Also some customers may avoid the area.

"We have a unique program that we have in place, that is a unique opportunity that has not been done anyplace else that provides utility assistance as a result of utility interruptions, or a general decrease in revenue, of up to $25,000 for any individual business."

Later this month, Metro officials will sign an agreement securing $900 million in federal funds.  It's the first time federal money has come to Houston for rail construction.  Metro says the trains are set to run in early 2014. 

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...