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Meeting notes - Jan 22, 2010

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Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council
January 22, 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, January 22, 2010

Resolution for Approval of Amendments to the 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP)
Four amendments to the 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) were proposed for the month of January 2010.  However, Amendments #190 and #204 are being deferred until either the February or March 2010 meetings so that there is an opportunity for public comments for both of them.

Amendment #198 involved changing the description and limits of an I-45 South project.  The amendment calls for splitting the widening project from Nyack Drive to Medical Center Blvd into two projects and changing the funding from Category-2 (Metropolitan Area Corridor Projects) to Proposition-12 bond funding.

Amendment #199 calls for a reallocation of Category-5 (Congestion Mitigation/Air Qualiuty) and Category-7 (Surface Transportation Program - Metropolitan Mobility) funds to redefined phases of the IH 610/US 290 interchange reconstruction project and adding Proposition-12 bond funds to the project.

A presentation and handout given by the US 290 / Hempstead Corridor Program indicates that the Texas Transportation Commission awarded the US 290 program approximately $314.6 million in Proposition 12 funds (of the approximately $2 billion in voter-approved Proposition 12 funds that the Texas Legislature authorized TxDOT to use for non-tolled highway projects) in November 2009. 

Amendment #199 involves phase I of the US 290 project, which includes the US 290/IH 610 interchange and US 290 out to W. 34th Street.  According to handouts describing the project, it will include construction of direct connectors taking inbound US 290 and westbound IH 610 North Loop motorists to IH 10, reconstruction of the IH 610 North Loop between West T.C. Jester and Ella Boulevard, and construction on the IH 610 mainlane bridges over White Oak Bayou. 

Construction letting for this phase of the US 290 project will now be advanced to May 2011 in accordance with Prop 12 stipulations.  (More information on the US 290 program can be found at

TPC Nominating Committee Recommendations
The Council unanimously approved the TPC Nominating Committee’s recommendations for 2010 TPC officers, one at-large position for Other Transportation Interests on the TPC, and 16 at-large positions on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

2010 Non-Voting Ex-Officio TPC Appointments
According to TPC by-laws, the chairman may appoint non-voting ex-officio representatives on the TPC.  The meeting included a long discussion on the actual need for these ex-officio representatives, and Art Storey expressed that he doesn’t believe federal representatives should be at the TPC table. 

***Sue Lovell suggested that the Council take time to think over ex-officio TPC appointments and defer voting on these appointments to a later meeting.  The Council unanimously agreed with Lovell’s idea and did not approve the Ex-Officio TPC appointments.***

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Update
Alan Clark of H-GAC indicated that over 50% of the ARRA projects have been let to contract.  Also, cost under-runs from projects let to contract in December, January, and February will be used to fund remaining MPO contingency projects by August 2010.

Clark added that a second round of ARRA, H.R. 2847, has passed in the House and Senate and is now in conference.  An amendment has been introduced that would provide additional funding - approximately $27.5 billion for FHWA funded transportation programs, $6.5 billion for transit formula programs, and $1.75 billion for fixed guideways. 

Clark noted that the state and TPC would need to act quickly to select projects for funding if the bill is indeed passed as current language requires that 50% of the funds be under contract in 90 days following US DOT allocations.

In order to prepare for this, Clark recommended using selection criteria similar to that used by the TPC in selecting projects for ARRA funding in Feb 2009 and using May 2009 criteria for local maintenance projects.

Air Quality Progress Report
Alan Clark introduced this item by saying 2009 had been a signature year because the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area, for the first time, met the existing eight-hour ozone standard of 85 ppb.  However, he also noted that the EPA has started working on toughening the ozone standard, so there will be more work to do in the future.

H-GAC’s Shelley Whitworth then presented an Air Quality Progress Report.  She highlighted H-GAC funded or administered air quality programs, including NuRide, Telework, Clean Vehicles Program, and Drayage Emission Reduction Act (DERA).  The detailed report can be found here.

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