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TIA Committee

Meeting notes - Sept. 14, 2009

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City Council Transportation, Infrastructure, and Aviation Committee
September 14, 2009, 2:00 pm

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

The City Council Transportation, Infrastructure & Aviation (TIA) Committee met to discuss Houston’s membership in the Gulf Coast Regional Mobility Partnership and Phase II of the City of Houston Mobility Plan.

Ann Travis, director of the Mayor’s Office of Government Affairs and Policy Planning, said that the City of Houston has periodically been involved in the Gulf Coast Regional Mobility Partnership (GCRMB) over the years, and that the City renewed its membership last year when the group reconvened more formally. The group advocates for certain pieces of legislation that it believes will improve mobility in the region.

Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, said that the group advocated for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) sunset bill, particularly the local option gas tax that would have allowed large cities to finance their own transportation projects. Both bills ultimately failed. In addition, he said that connectivity to the Port of Houston is a big priority for the group, especially with the upcoming widening of the Panama Canal.

Moseley said that the GCRMP budget for the next year is $427,000, of which $75,000 would be provided by the City of Houston. Council Member Sue Lovell asked who determines where the gas tax is spent in Texas. Moseley said that TxDOT makes those decisions, but that the decisions are not transparent and a lot of the revenue generated in Houston is being used elsewhere in the state, which is why the GCRMP supported the local option proposal. Lovell said that the City of Houston should calculate how much gasoline is delivered within city limits versus how much gas tax revenue the city receives.

The Committee approved renewing the City of Houston’s membership, and the item will now appear before the full City Council.

Michael Marcotte, director of the Houston Public Works & Engineering Department, said that next week an increase in funding for the City’s Mobility Plan will be on the City Council agenda. Marcotte gave a brief presentation, saying that transportation service will continue to degrade by 2035 despite an estimated $60 billion in roadway spending and $40 billion in transit spending. Anticipated growth will stretch the system, he said, resulting in a service level of “F” in many locations, particularly outside the 610 Loop.

Marcotte told the committee, “We’re seeing increasing densification, and that’s a good thing,” noting that Houston has a number of “little downtowns.” However, he said that the number of work trips is expected to increase 67 percent by 2035, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is expected to increase as a result. He estimated that VMT will increase 60 percent in the City of Houston and 80 percent in the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) region.

The Public Works & Engineering Department will be asking for an increase of $729,000 to the contract, of which $329,000 would come from the City of Houston Fund 2304 and $400,000 would come from H-GAC. The increase would help pay for updates to the City’s Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan, as well as the inclusion of traffic demand modeling in the Capital Improvement Program and a study of the area encompassed by US 59, downtown Houston, Buffalo Bayou, and 610. The Department expects that the West Inner Loop will be one of the problem locations in the future.

Marcotte’s PowerPoint presentation is posted online.

There were no comments from the City Council members, and since no action was required regarding the Mobility Plan, the meeting was adjourned.

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