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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Houston Metro breaks ground — finally

The legal dust had barely settled when officials from Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris Co., Texas, (Metro) sent construction dust flying March 13, breaking ground on the city’s first light-rail line.

Two-and-a-half months past the scheduled groundbreaking, Metro’s shovels were stilled when City Councilman Rob Todd filed suit against the agency and city, charging that Metro should have been required to seek voter approval to build on streets.

Last week, the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas ruled that the trial court "erred in its application of the law to the undisputed facts."

"Houston is a great place to live, work and raise a family, and all of us want to see our region thrive and prosper in the 21st century," Board Chairman Robert Miller said at the ceremony, according to a prepared statement. "Working together, we can make that happen."

Prior to the groundbreaking, Metro’s board unanimously passed a binding resolution that requires any MetroRail extensions to obtain voter approval. To aid their decision-making, voters will be provided information on a rail-transit system plan, the corridors, modes, costs and bonded indebtedness the extensions would require.

The board also unanimously approved about $233 million in construction contracts, including those for the first five rail line segments and rolling stock to be used on the $300 million project.

Siemens Transportation Systems Inc. was awarded the $117.9 million systems components and vehicles contract.

Other prime contractors include: Texas Sterling Construction, which will build the second, third and fifth sections for $65.3 million; Beers Construction Co., first section for $35.9 million; and Bencon Management, fourth section for $13.8 million.

The groundbreaking took place at Metro’s future Downtown Transit Center and Administration Office Building. Plans call for the site to be a hub for bus and rail transit when the system is completed in 2004, with a nine-bus bay covered facility and rail station.

The 7.5-mile light-rail line would extend from downtown Houston to the Astrodome.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/14/2001