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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
H-GAC Transportation Policy Council
by Jim Guidry
Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council on Friday voted 20-2, with Harris County Engineer Art Storey and Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark opposed, to approve amendments to the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program and the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan Update.
Listen:
MP3  RealPlayer

“This resolution would approve adding about $2 million to State Highway 105 improvements,” explained H-GAC Manager of Transportation and Air Quality Programs Alan Clark.  “What TxDOT has secured funding to do is not only improve this facility with some access management treatments but to add what they call the Super 2 concept.”

The Super 2 concept includes passing lanes on the rural highway.

“TxDOT secured the funding from where?” Storey asked.

Clark said the funding was secured by advancing bond funds in future projects in another category.

“Now I’m sympathetic to 105,” Storey said.  “But just as we do this we need to remember that this isn’t money; this is line of credit.  We didn’t owe anything eight years ago; now we owe 15 or 20 billion dollars and have no resources to pay it.”

The TPC voted unanimously to receive public comment on additional projects proposed for inclusion in the 2011-14 Transportation Improvement Program funded with Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality, Surface Transportation Major Metro, TxDOT Category 12 or Proposition 12 Bond Program Funds.

Maureen Crocker, executive director of the Gulf Coast Rail District, addressed the TPC on the West Belt Improvement Projects. Listen: MP3  RealPlayer

“The West Belt is one of the main rail lines,” Crocker said.  “It is in the center of this regional rail network.  It is one of the main pathways to the yard.  It is about nine miles long and it handles about 60 to 75 trains today.”

Crocker said the segment included in the project for improvements is about six miles long and includes several at-grade rail crossings.

“It runs along the east side of downtown, roughly from the University of Houston up to I-10, so it goes behind the new soccer stadium as well as behind Minute Maid Park,” she said.  “Trains, if they go through there, the crossings are so close they will block several crossings at a time.  And certainly a train cannot stop there because it would be a mobility problem, especially for first responders.”

The TPC voted unanimously to approve a resolution recognizing the service of John Sedlak, who is retiring from METRO, for his service to the TPC.

All other agenda items were approved unanimously.  City of Conroe Downtown Development Manager, Galveston City Council Member Dianna Puccetti, League City Council Member Mick Phalen, Texas City City Engineer Doug Kneupper, the Chambers County Engineer (a vacant position), and TxDOT Beaumont District Interim Engineer Duane Browning were absent and not represented by alternates. Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell was absent but represented by Council Member Brenda Stardig, her alternate member; Missouri City Director of Public Works Scott Elmer was represented by Varlerie Marvin, Montgomery County Commissioner Craig Doyal was represented by Mark J. Mooney, P.E. and H-GAC Chief Operating Officer Steve Howard was represented by Executive Director Jack Steele.

H-GAC Chief Transporation Planner Christy Willhite reviewed recommendations and progress on four access management studies.  Listen: MP3  RealPlayer

The studies were on projects related to Murphy Road, FM 1764, SH 105 and BF 1960.




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