The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council (TPC) unanimously voted on Friday morning to delay by thirty days its vote on a full $79.8 million allocation of unprogrammed federal transportation funds toward Mobility - roadway and freight rail - projects and a reallocation of $12.8 million from already committed pedestrian, bicycle, and Livable Centers projects to Mobility projects.
The 30-day delay will allow the public and elected officials to further explore how potential money from the federal Surface Transportation Program Major Metro (STP MM) and Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) funds should be allocated within the Houston-Galveston region’s 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
The decision came after elected officials heard from more than 20 business, bicycle, pedestrian, and political advocates in attendance, plus thousands of citizens who signed petitions and called officials’ offices during the week to voice their concerns regarding the manner in which federal funds were being distributed toward various transportation modes.
Rather than push a vote through, City of Houston Council member Sue Lovell requested that the TPC delay voting on the issue for 30 days so that elected officials could more carefully examine the options on the table and hear from their constituents.
While Harris County Judge Ed Emmett suggested that some officials’ constituents may express opposite concerns from the bicycle and pedestrian advocates in attendance during the delay, Metro’s George Greanias said a more thorough look at all the options on the table is crucial for the region’s long-term economic competitiveness:
“I’m concerned because a lot of numbers have been thrown around, but I think even more importantly than that, there are some significant policy issues that are involved. And the decisions that we make on these allocations that you all have worked very hard to recommend to us are going to set the path for this region I think for the foreseeable future. And I have personal concerns that we need to think carefully about where our region is going. What I see and what’s on the table right now is a continuation of the philosophy that, in our lifetime, the emphasis will be on streets and roads. I believe, when you look at the economic stuff, that a program that is predominantly streets and roads, is long-term not economically sustainable.”
[Note: Houston Tomorrow has an online petition calling for roadway spending to make up no more than 55% of regional transportation infrastructure spending, in accordance with the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan. The proposal on the table, on the other hand, called for STP MM and CMAQ funds of the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program to be allocated in such a manner that roadway and freight projects would receive 78% of available funds. As of the time of the meeting of the TPC, 1,710 people from across the Houston region signed this petition.]
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