Light-rail fans in Houston were on tenterhooks this week. As Rad Sallee of the Houston Chronicle put it Monday:
The U.S. transportation secretary will announce "good news" regarding expanding transit in Houston Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. Metro has asked the agency to pay for half of two planned light rail lines...."We wouldn't be coming there to announce bad news," said the spokeswoman, declining to elaborate.
Wow!! What did the great news turn out to be? That the feds had approved funding for one of the two new rail lines Metro is proposing? Or maybe both lines, pretty pretty pretty please?
Even better!! Transportation Secretary Mary Peters came to town and announced that...she's in favor of changing laws so someday transportation projects are funded with less red tape!!
Sallee's not-so-happy follow-up report:
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Peters was in Houston on Tuesday to pitch an administration plan that she said would send more federal dollars to fast-growing metropolitan areas and give local government more say in how to spend them.
Peters called for leaders to ask Congress to approve the idea when it overhauls federal transportation funding this fall.
Although the plan has several parts, Peters emphasized its Metropolitan Mobility Program. If it were enacted, she said, "Local officials will be free to make investments based on their own most pressing transportation needs."...Peters did not comment directly on the status of Metro requests for Federal Transit Administration funding of the planned North and Southeast lines.
"If the North Corridor project is as good as the project's sponsors say it is, it will be easier to fund under our proposal than under the broken federal current system. It will be faster, too," she said.
Remember, "We wouldn't be coming there to announce bad news," as the anonymous spokesperson said.
So feel good, Houston! Enjoy that coal in the stocking!!
-- Richard Connelly