What's next for METRO?
HOUSTON Interim boss George Greanias took charge on Monday after Wilson resigned on Friday. Greanias says there is a lot of work ahead. His immediate concern is reestablishing confidence in the agency, but he says he's committed to building the light rails. The orange barrels and construction equipment along Harrisburg may be progress for one light rail line. But for Gonzalo Arriata, it's tough-going for his family's thrift store. He says his business is down 60 percent. Just one day into the new job, Greanias says he's painfully aware of the construction impact on local communities and vows that METRO needs to do better. "Part of my job will be to make sure that we do everything, everything that's reasonable and humanly possible, to help everyone get through that construction period as painlessly as we can," he said. But his job is far more daunting than that. Wilson leaves behind an agency that hasn't completed one new rail line in six years. It's also mired in a district attorney's investigation and legitimate concerns raised by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on whether the agency has played by the rules in trying to get federal funding. "We're looking at a lot of documents that we have requested to make sure everything has been done correctly," LaHood said. Long-time rail opponents, especially along the proposed Richmond Corridor, say they're watching the board and the new CEO carefully. "So it will be interesting to see how independent the board is, if they're really concerned about how contracts are written," said Daphne Scarbrough, an opponent of the light rail. Greanias has promised more transparency but says all five light rail lines will be built, and that the federal government will support it. "We believe the federal government will, in the end, help us," he said. "We believe that we will make the numbers work at the local level. We also know that it's gonna be a fairly heavy lift, but we'll get it done." And for people like Arriata, the feeling is METRO's projects certainly can't get any worse. "The future is good, but now is bad," Arriata said. METRO has its first board meeting with Greanias on duty next week. On the agenda, the board is expected to evaluate a number of METRO consultants' contracts to determine whether they're actually worth the money and whether they will continue to work with the agency.