Mayor wants to put brakes on rail

HOUSTON As tree-lined stretch of Richmond Avenue was a big draw when Robert McClain opened his namesake gallery and one of the reasons he's concerned about the planned University light rail line.

"The whole character of what we love about inside the Loop and about this part of our community is going to get destroyed by this line," he said. "Not only the loss of trees, the traffic congestion, the increased flooding."

But what seemed like a done deal is now uncertain. METRO has long planned to build 5 light rail lines in addition to the already existing Main Street line. But Mayor Parker now says there may not be money for the University and Uptown lines.

"The other two lines are in a very different place than the first three," said Mayor Parker. "There hasn't yet been a commitment of federal dollars."

Mayor Parker says she's still committed to building the light rail lines, but believes METRO should focus on the north, east and southeast line. Long time rail supporters are stunned.

"It's very worrisome to hear what the mayor is saying," said Jay Blazek Crossley with Houston Tomorrow. "I think it's very reasonable, a good thing, for her to look the financing of the METRO plan. But the University is essential to Houston's light rail."

Parker says she does support light rail, even eventually going to the airports. But for now, METRO needs a major management overhaul in her view and needs to focus on the rail lines it can actually build.

"There are still lots of moving parts still out there," she said. "Let's focus on the three that we can get up and get out and get on the ground."

Those three lines are already under construction. What Mayor Parker is focusing on next is appointing five new METRO board members. She says she'll make that announcement next week.

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