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Meeting notes - April 23, 2010

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Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council
April 23, 2010, 9:30 am

Houston Tomorrow publishes notes from public meetings to help local governments in their mission to provide transparency and to allow a greater pool of Houstonians to participate in important policy discussions.  These notes are not official meeting minutes, nor do they record every agenda item.

TPC agenda, April 23, 2010
Resolution for Approval of Amendments to the 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP)
1.) Amendment #237 programs Federal Transit Administration Section 5309 (Capital Program) discretionary awards for Galveston Island Transit and Brazos Transit District.  The Galveston award will support pedestrian improvements along Seawall Blvd, providing improved access to transit locations, while the Brazos Transit District award will offset the costs of clean bus purchases in Montgomery County, including commuter services from The Woodlands to downtown Houston.

2.) Amendment #239 will program $1,315,424 of Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program federal funds for land acquisition for the Gulf Coast Center’s SH 288 Park and Ride lot at County Road 59 in Brazoria County.  METRO will acquire the land and develop the park and ride lot, Connect Transit will provide the service, the City of Pearland is providing local match for the service, and the City of Manvel (where the lot will be located) supports the project.

Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, speaking briefly, noted that the city strongly supports this project and is very grateful for METRO, adding that the SH 288 Park and Ride will greatly reduce congestion for the 7,000 Pearland residents working in the Medical Center.


Administrative Amendments to the 2008 – 2011 TIP and 2035 RTP 
At the March 2010 TPC meeting, the TPC approved Resolution #2035-27-RTP to allow the MPO Director, after consultation with TPC officers, to amend the 2008-2011 TIP so that available funding balances for FY 2010 in the STP-MM and CMAQ funding categories would be used.  After review of the projects shown in this table, TPC officers decided to approve projects documented in Amendments 230, 234, 235, 240, and 238.

Resolution To Provide Financial Update to the Delegation
This resolution, provided by Houston Councilmember Steve Costello for the TPC’s consideration, directs the MPO director to provide information regarding TxDOT’s financial outlook (a $7.3 billion shortfall for FY 2008-2020 in the Houston region), to the Houston area legislative delegation.  Additionally, the director will inform interested parties and stakeholders about projected shortfalls and the list of projects subject to removal from the region’s long range transportation plan due to inadequate state funding.  This could include meeting with chambers of commerce, business, non-profit, and municipal leaders.  Finally, the MPO director, per the resolution, would also develop display boards to illustrate the financial shortfall and make them available at all meetings, including the public comment period on the drafts of the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program and the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan Update. 

The resolution shows that the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for the Houston-Galveston region assumed funding for TxDOT projects totaling $11.7 billion through 2020, but revised estimates from TxDOT indicate only $4.4 billion will be available (hence, the $7.3 billion shortfall).  Furthermore, the resolution notes that the Houston-Galveston region is expected to add 3.1 million people and almost double vehicle miles traveled by 2035, implying that congestion is sure to increase, “thereby stagnating regional growth and development.”

Mr. Costello asked that the resolution be modified so that only state legislators, not federal, would be provided information on the TxDOT funding shortfalls.


Approval of Draft 2011-2014 TIP for Public Comment
HGAC’s Patricia Waskowiak started out by giving a presentation on a draft of the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program, looking for Council members to approve the draft so that it could be released for a month-long public comment period. 

Instead, after seeing certain projects removed from the draft, most notably segments of the Grand Parkway (SH 99), certain Council members, including Judge Ed Emmett, Chairman James Patterson, and Art Storey, made it clear they wouldn’t approve the draft as is, with Emmett saying, “The Texas Department of Transportation and the Legislature, in Senate Bill 792, basically told the seven counties to build the Grand Parkway… ; we cannot drop that from the TIP.” 

Patterson then suggested that H-GAC provide the TPC with a list of projects that are being removed from the TIP, so that they could more accurately vote on it.  Waskowiak told him she could get it to him early this week, and the Council agreed to reschedule their May meeting from Friday, May 28 to Friday, May 21 so that they could approve the TIP draft in time for it to be released to the public for one month. 

Besides certain projects being removed from the drafted TIP, it’s worth noting the change in funding from the 2008-2011 TIP to the projected 2011-2014 TIP.  Per slide 4 of Waskowiak’s presentation, changes include:
1. A 67% decrease in federal-aid funding for roadways ($3.6 billion to $1.2 billion)
2. A 75% decrease in local funding for roadways ($5.6 billion to $1.4 billion)
3. A 138% increase in federal-aid funding for transit ($1.3 billion to $3.1 billion)
4. A 60% increase in local funding for transit ($1.2 billion to $1.9 billion).

Overall, these changes account for a 35% decrease in funding ($11.7 billion in the 2008-11 TIP vs $7.6 billion in the 2011-14 TIP).

A recording of this segment of the meeting is available as a mp3 from Guidry News

Update on METRO Intermodal Terminal
Finally, METRO’s Kimberly Slaughter gave a presentation on METRO’s intermodal terminal, to be located at Burnett station on the North Corridor line (which will extend the existing Red Line from the University of Houston to Northline Mall).  The terminal would provide a transit stop for riders on the North Line and include other transit modes, including METRO local bus, METRO regional bus, Kiss-and-Ride, taxi service, and paratransit service in phase I of its development, according to the presentation.  The terminal would also be built so that it could accommodate more transit modes, including commuter rail, private bus lines, high-speed rail, shuttle bus services, and transit parking, added the presentation. 

Slaughter added that the $270 million passenger train terminal is included in METRO’s Long Range Plan for full implementation by 2025, is anticipated to serve at least 30,000 travelers per day, and would include an outdoor space for music and community events. 

Mark Ellis, chair of the Gulf Coast Rail District, said that he has heard that freight rail carriers, who own the tracks, will not support commuter rail at that site.  Slaughter responded by saying commuter rail is not necessarily needed for the terminal, but it is still being built in a way that it can be added if needed.


Guidry News has published a story on this meeting that includes selected audio clips

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