METRO to meet with community about light rail extension

February 15, 2011 4:08:54 PM PST
It's a plan that could make life easier for tens of thousands of commuters every day. METRO is considering extending its light rail to the southwest. But first they want to hear from you. The proposal would give commuters in Missouri City a way to get into downtown Houston via light rail through a route along Highway 90. It's a plan that's still in its early stages, but it's generating a lot of buzz.

Back in 2003, voters approved a referendum that in par gave the green light for the study of commuter rail along Highway 90 from Missouri City into Houston. Now METRO is asking for your input.

METRO wants input to help identify the environmental, economical and community issues that would come with the new commuter rail called the US 90A Southwest Rail Corridor. The train would make rounds every 12 minutes to downtown and fares would range from $2 to $4 with discounts available for seniors and students.

The commuter rail METRO is looking at extends southwest of Houston. It may or may not look like the existing light rail.

It could be electric, diesel, or a combination. METRO officials are still working on that and exactly where the rail line would be built.

METRO on Tuesday launched the first of four public sessions to get public feedback on that.

"Are there other alternatives we haven't considered?" asked Clint Harbert of METRO.

Right now, METRO has identified five potential locations for the line, all adjacent to Highway 90. It would stretch eight miles from the south end of the existing light rail line to the West Sam Houston Tollway. None is yet set in stone.

"That's not to say there are not others," said Harbert.

The rail would link Missouri City, Stafford and Houston, with the Medical Center and several universities, cultural, entertainment and sports complexes along the way.

"It sounds like a great idea. I know a lot of people who use the rail to get to work very often," said resident Monica Fahrenholtz.

METRO says it would reduce commute times for folks living southwest -- a welcome promise for those who make that trek.

"In the morning time at five and six o'clock, it's kinda hard to get out. You're sitting in traffic for awhile," said resident Sheila Waddell.

But the commuter rail expansion is still not funded. METRO says it would cost between $200 and $250 million. Half that money coming from as yet unsecured federal grants and half from local sources. Some say that would be money better spent elsewhere.

"If you're gonna focus in on something, focus in on the airports first and drive the traffic there," said resident Larry Batton.

Missouri City's mayor says the project is very important.

The meeting goes from 6pm to 8pm tonight at the Missouri City Community Center on Texas Parkway.

We'll have the latest from the meeting on Eyewitness News at 10pm.