Feds All But OK Funding For Two More Light-Rail Lines, Costing Whatever

More news -- good or bad depending on your side of the fence -- about Metro's planned light-rail lines came today when board chairman David Wolff announced that Metro has all but got its first funding agreement from the Federal Transit Administration.

For 2010, the feds listed the North and Southeast corridors as two of the five recommended projects on its budget, and Metro is set to get $75 million for each.  

Construction on both lines could start as early as June, Wolff said.

Metro expected and announced it would have the funding agreement by the end of last year, but that didn't happen.

"We got out-politicked. This is the first time we haven't had a dysfunctional delegation," Wolff told Hair Balls, referring to anti-rail US Reps like Tom DeLay. "It was like walking into a gun fight down an alley. You'd want to walk somewhere more peaceful. The places that were more peaceful got the money."

It's still a bit fuzzy on how much these projects will technically cost, because when Metro signed its facility provider contract in March, the North and Southeast corridors were estimated to total $830 million. About a month later, KHOU reported on Metro documents that set the cost at about $1.8 billion.

On its web site, the FTA has the total costs listed at the $1.8 billion.  

When Metro president and CEO Frank Wilson was asked today at the press conference if he wanted to comment on the funding agreement, he said, "No, I think he's done a super job."

Surprising he didn't want to talk, because unless you want to nit-pick at a $900 million cost discrepancy, things are looking pretty good for Metro.

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight