Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Houston LRT backers decry OK to divert funds

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Light rail transit advocates in Houston Wednesday morning mourned passage by voters of a referendum allowing Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) to divert 25% of its transit sales tax collection to roads, bridges, sidewalks, and other non-rail infrastructure. Metro itself supported the measure.

Metro argues that, with passage of the measure, it will continue diverting money for roads, but keep more of the refenue for transit than under the current funding formula, increasing the amount from roughly 75% to 81% orf colelecte revenue, and generating $400 million in additional funds by 2025.

But Houston-area rail advocates note such spending must be spent on bus shelters and debt payment, slighting rail, and could seriously impede Houston's aggressive expansion of LRT.

Local media quoted David Crossley, president of Houston Tomorrow, claiming approval would stymie rail expansion, and noting Metro would be barred from using local money for rail until 2024. "By that time, 2024 or 2028 according to some, Harris County will have control of the board," Crossley said, noting that Harris County likely would have a a majority of seats on the Metro board, making it less likely for "city-centric" rail development.