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All Aboard? Area Residents Discuss Light Rail
Posted on Feb 17th, 2011

METRO is currently developing an Environmental Impact Statement for the US90A/Southwest Rail Corridor that will analyze the social and environmental impacts of the Metro Commuter light rail system extending to the West Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) in Missouri City. The proposed improvements would stretch about 8.3 miles from the METRORail Fannin South Station, which is at the southern end of the Red Line, to Missouri City; providing a direct link to the Texas Medical Center and Downtown Houston jobs and recreation venues.
 
Citizens who attended the public input hearing on Feb. 15 at the Missouri City Community Center heard an overview of the project, viewed charts outlining the process of the proposal, inspected maps of the proposed route, and filled out feedback forms; sharing comments and submitting questions on the issue.
 
Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen, a long-time proponent of commuter rail for the area, proclaimed: “It’s time to move forward and get this train rolling.” In a brief speech on the topic, Owen explained the importance of the extension, saying that it would transform transportation in the region and benefit residents, patients and businesses. He also acknowledged Congressman Al Green, who has been instrumental in seeking federal monies to ensure the project is funded.
 
The proposed infrastructure improvements were identified as a priority transportation investment in the voter-approved 2003 METRO Solutions Plan and recently as part of the Houston-Galveston Area Council 2035 Regional Transportation Plan. The public hearing was one of a series of meetings on the issue and most residents said they were onboard the plan.
  
Missouri City resident Johnny Jedkins drives downtown every day to work, and is looking forward to passenger rail coming here. “It’s a good idea because it will eliminate some of the traffic congestion in the morning. I think I will park my truck and take the train instead. It’s much needed in the area.”
 
In addition to reducing traffic on the roads, other benefits of a light rail line along the US90A/Southwest Rail Corridor would include the linking of key commuter areas, transport from Missouri City to the medical center in less than 30 minutes, train rides every 12 minutes, increased commercial development and a drop in air pollution.
 
“I’m anxious, I’m ready for it,” said Eleanor Taylor of Missouri City, who currently commutes from a Park and Ride lot to the Texas Medical Center’s Transit hub. “Getting on at that point is extremely crowded, so I would like to be able to take the train straight from here to the Medical Center.”
 
Other residents were not as enthusiastic about the project. Heather Martin, who moved to Missouri City three years ago from Maryland, said: “I’m concerned about crime because I was taking the Metro rail system in the Washington, D.C. area and cars were broken into in the train parking area.” As a deterrent, she said, “security would need to be stepped up to prevent crime.” City and METRO officials are aware of such concerns and will take steps to ensure the safety of riders and their property.
 
A range of issues were discussed by participants and emphasis was placed on short- and long-term effects.
 
Gauging the state of passenger rail in Texas and across the nation, Mayor Owen noted the success of Dallas Area Rapid Transit and how they system has had a significant impact on the development of the City. Owen said that expanding commuter rail locally will bring the same result: “This will be the most successful line that METRO will ever build in the Houston area,” he told the audience.
 
Approximately 27,174 commuters currently drive to and from the Medical Center along the US90A/Southwest Rail Corridor every day; the daily trips are projected to increase to 31,855 by 2035. In addition to Missouri City and Stafford residents, thousands of Medical Center employees who live in a cone extending from Katy to Pearland would benefit from the extension. “The endeavor will be profitable, drawing a strong ridership that is initially estimated to start at about 12,000 commuters and predicted to reach 23,000 by the year 2030,” Owen said.
 
METRO President George Greanias thanked residents for sharing their input and told them the feedback will be important in planning the exact route of the commuter rail line. “This is the beginning of the process,” he said, adding that “the whole point is to find out what customers want to guide our planning and find out what services work best in this area.” He explained that the timeline for the project is tentative and will “rely on federal funding. Once Congress authorizes the funding we will have a more definite timeline.” Greanias went on to explain the “project scores pretty high with the Federal Transit Administration which sends recommendations to Congress.”
 
Ultimately, passenger rail is expected to bring myriad benefits for area residents and many like Denise Lloyd, of Missouri City, is anxious for it to arrive. “It’s unfortunate that Fort Bend County has taken so long to catch up with other major cities that have excellent transportation systems,” said Lloyd, who commutes to the Medical Center from the Park and Ride in Missouri City.
 
For updates on the project, please watch the City’s website: www.missouricitytx.gov and Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T U-verse.) To submit feedback and comments on the issue, please visit: http://www.metrosolutions.org/go/inquiry/1068/.
 
Stacie Walker
Public Information Manager
City of Missouri City
281-403-8530
swalker@missouricitytx.gov
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