The Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council today voted to defer action on approval of the funding targets for the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program until next month's meeting. The room was packed by representatives of a number of organizations, as well as private individuals, who were upset that the TPC was considering an emphasis on roadway and rail projects as opposed to quality of life “alternative modes” such as bicycle and pedestrian trails, livable centers and transit.
“Seventy-five to 82 percent of the funds would go to roadway and rail projects,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said, explaining the recommendation of a committee of the officers of the TPC. “Nine to 13 percent of all funding would go to alternative modes and 9 to 13 percent would go to air quality projects." Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
Ed Wulfe, speaking for the Center for Houston’s Future and the Greater Houston Partnership, was the first of 29 people who spoke in support of quality of life improvements. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“The Quality of Life Committee of the Greater Houston Partnership has spent 18 months working on a region-wide Bayou Greenway Initiative,” Wulfe said. “In essence, it extends our ten bayous into linear parks and capitalizes on leveraging of flood control, water quality and all of those sources of revenue that could help us include trails and parks in the process.”
Houston City Council Member Melissa Noriega spoke in support of funding for livable centers.
“We can’t afford to continue the status quo,” agreed Christof Spieler, a member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors, who said he rode the bus to the meeting but had to walk in the street from the bus stop to the H-GAC building because there are not adequate sidewalks.
Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell made the motion for a one month delay so that the issues can be discussed again in a workshop meeting, which was supported by METRO President George Greanias. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“What Mr. Spieler said is exactly right,” Greanias said. “METRO’s bus system will not work to maximum efficiency if people cannot get to it.”
Greanias encouraged the members of the TPC to consider the future of the region.
“I am very concerned about adopting policy judgments that perpetuate a system that I, personally at least, have grave concerns will sustain us for the long haul,” Greanias said.
Alan Clark, manager of the H-GAC Transportation and Air Quality programs, noted that membership of the TPC was changed by the 2010 Census. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“We are now able to certify that the city of League City has far surpassed 50,000 residents,” Clark said, noting that the League City City Council now has its own representative on the TPC. “The City of Pearland and the City of Conroe will now be able to directly appoint their own representatives. They will no longer be at-large appointees.”
Tonight the H-GAC General Assembly will hold its annual meeting at the Westin Galleria in Houston.