After years of working, planning, construction, budget fights and political battles, Houston’s light-rail system is finally starting to grow into a full urban transit system, with the tracks for the East End line and Main Street line already making their marks on the city. It has not always been pretty, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but Houston’s population is growing, and we need investment in transit infrastructure now - before gridlock becomes the rule of the road. But as we make progress here in Houston, some representatives in Washington, D.C. are trying to turn our light-rail funding into a budget train wreck.
In an amendment to a federal spending package, which includes $200 million for Houston’s rail lines, Rep. John Culberson has blocked any federal funds going toward the planned rail lines along Richmond Avenue and Post Oak Boulevard. (“Vote erects barrier for light rail on Richmond,” B1, June 30).
Trying to reroute this rail explicitly diverts it from important business nodes in Greenway Plaza and the Galleria, undermining the overall purpose of urban light rail. In contrast to Culberson’s assertion that these lines are “unnecessary and unwanted,” in a decentralized city like Houston, any urban rail must connect our diverse business centers, and Culberson’s plan threatens to cripple an important piece of Houston’s transit future.
Rep. Culberson has framed his political maneuver as protecting the people in his district. But the rail system isn’t just in his district; it is a network, affecting people far outside his constituency. And rather than reach out and work with the rest of Houston, he is doubling down on obstructionism.
After running for office on the motto of “Letting Texans Run Texas,” Culberson’s antics smack of Washington, D.C., shenanigans, trying to impose his own rules rather than work with local leaders.
Houston’s elected officials in City Hall, Austin and Washington, D.C., should all be on the same team, pulling together for what is right for Houston. But rather than help Houston fund an impressive, functional urban transit system that could help reduce traffic and pollution while making it easier to get around town, Culberson is standing athwart the progress of our city, yelling, “Stop!”
Luckily, Rep. Culberson does not have the final word on the matter. Texas’ Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, will be in the middle of the House-Senate negotiations on Culberson’s spending restriction. We trust that Sen. Hutchison’s common sense attitude and dedication to Texas first will play out in these negotiations, stripping Rep. Culberson’s block from the bill and letting Houston move forward with these necessary and wanted rail lines.
Full Story: Editorial: Culberson needs to get off the tracks
Source: The Houston Chronicle, July 10, 2012