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Culberson asks Congress to forbid University rail line

And wants Metro audited

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US Rep. John Culberson has renewed attempts to throw roadblocks in the way of the Houston region’s transit progress by asking Congress to adopt language specifically forbidding funding for any proposed capital project that is “constructed on or planned to be constructed on Richmond Avenue west of Montrose Boulevard or on Post Oak Boulevard north of Richmond Avenue in Houston, Texas.”

The language appears in the House FY13 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill that was considered Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

[Update: the Culberson language passed the Committee vote and moves on to the House and Senate]
Also, the committee report language that accompanies the legislation includes the following language requiring the Inspector General to conduct an audit into the financial solvency of METRO. The language is below:

Houston METRO Finances.—The Committee directs the IG to conduct an audit into the financial solvency of Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (Houston METRO). As part of this audit, the IG should conduct a stress test to determine if Houston METRO has adequate finances to pay for the construction of new rail lines as well as the operation and maintenance of existing rail lines and the operation and maintenance of buses.

No amendment was accepted to strike the language from the legislation. According to Smart Growth America typically members do not go after each others’ local initiatives.

Culberson has fought the University line for many years because he wants the line to “run within the Southwest Freeway right-of-way to Westpark,” rather than on Richmond, where the people and jobs are. Before now, he has not publicly expressed opposition to the Uptown line on Post Oak, which was specifically approved by voters in 2003 as a line from “Westpark to the Northwest Transit Center,” which is where Metro plans to put it.

Kay Warhol, co-chair of richmondrail.org, had this to say:
“The Congressman has it completely backwards. We believe that neigborhood-friendly light rail transit along Richmond Avenue is something we desperately need - in order to protect quality of life and economic vitality for our neighborhoods.  And we have the signatures of over 3000 individuals and the endorsements of every active civic association along Richmond Avenue in Neartown to say they agree!  Rep. Culberson’s actions threaten to rob this community, and the City as a whole, of a critical amenity.”

Culberson’s action mimics that of former US Rep Tom Delay, who wrote a clause in the 2001 federal transportation appropriations bill specifically preventing the utilization of taxes on the Metro rail project. Metro then built the Main Street line with local funds.

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