METRORail Update: When Are the New Lines Going to Start Running?

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The expansion of METRORail has at times felt to be moving at a snail's pace, but progress is being made and it appears that all three of the new lines -- plus the extended "downtown" line -- will be in place by the end of 2014, including one much sooner.

A few weeks ago, our photographer Groovehouse took some shots of the light rail downtown at night. As is evident through his photos and through the downtown road construction, there is still a lot to be done, particularly downtown, but the same cannot be said for the North Line.

According to the METRORail Web site, the North Line, which extends the existing Red Line from UH Downtown north to Northline Mall, will be open by December of this year. The remaining work to landscaping and stops along the line is almost complete. Take a drive down Fulton and you will see the substantial progress.

The East End Line, which runs through downtown past Minute Maid Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center down Harrisburg is the next furthest along with 100 percent of road work done and 41 percent of the finishing touches to the stations and landscaping. That line actually splits into the Southeast Line just past downtown, which then runs out to the University of Houston.

The Southeast Line is the next most completed portion, but it still has some roadwork and guideway work ahead before getting to the finishing touches. The remaining portion is what METRO is referring to as the "Downtown Line," but is, in reality, just a small stretch from Main Street west to the Theater District. That has the most work to go, not surprising given the heavily trafficked part of downtown it crosses.

The good news is that while no specific dates have been set for the opening of the remaining portions after the North Line, it appears Houston is just about a year away from a much more comprehensive rail system in and around downtown. If they could just figure out how to get the University and Uptown Lines built, we could finally argue that we have legitimately usable mass transit, at least inside the Loop.

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