League City Mayor Tim Paulissen, speaking as chair of the Galveston County Transit District, and transportation consultant John Carrara of The Goodman Corporation, updated the Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Committee on the Locally Preferred Transit Alternative in the State Highway 3 Mobility Corridor. Listen
Carrara explained that commuter rail is the preferred alternative, but because of costs a commuter bus system will be developed first.
“An interim plan is being developed that has eight phases to it,” Carrara said, explaining that two of the eight phases have already been accomplished - CONNECT Transit has established fixed route bus service in Texas City, La Marque, San Leon, Dickinson and Bacliff and the Victory Lakes Park & Ride is in operation.
Union Pacific Railroad Vice President Joseph Adams cautioned that freight traffic has increased over the years and commuter rail planners should be prepared to construct their own tracks.
“Any kind of a commuter rail operation along that line we think will require construction of a separate track at least 50 feet away, because of safety concerns, from the existing freight line,” Adams said.
Fort Bend County Commissioner James Patterson took issue with Adams, arguing for shared use of the tracks.
“We’ll never have the 90-A Line, we’ll never have the 290 Line, we’ll never have this line here,” Patterson said. “There has got to be times when we can double-use.”
“With all due respect Commissioner, the freight operations are 24 hours a day,” Adams said.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, chair of the TPC, was concerned that the Gulf Coast Rail District has not been involved in the discussions of the proposed commuter rail to Galveston.
“It is the entity that includes both counties and they haven’t been a part of this process,” Emmett said, questioning the priorities of the program.
“League City is by far the largest city in Galveston County,” Emmett said, suggesting that most of the commuter traffic was to and from League City, not Galveston.
Galveston City Council Member Marie Robb defended the need of Galveston for weekday commuter service for workers as well as transportation for tourists who visit the island.
“The current council definitely sees this as a tourism advantage, all during the week and through the weekend,” Robb said. “And we are really becoming a year around destination.”
“With all due respect to the city of Galveston, we rent a beach house for three weeks pretty much every year,” Emmett said, insisting that the train would serve only a commuter purpose. “There is no way we’re going to get on a train with all of our grand kids and throw all of our stuff on it and go down there. We’re going to still drive.”
Robb stressed the importance of commuters to the region.
“Our fastest growing population right now is people who choose to live on Galveston because of the quality of life and commute into Houston.”
“How many people live in Galveston?” Emmett asked.
“Currently we’re roughly around 45,000 to 47,000,” Robb responded.
“How many people live in League City?” Emmett asked Mayor Paulissen.
“Eighty-nine thousand currently,” Paulissen answered.
Jennifer Moczygenba of the Texas Department of Transportation reported on a proposed high speed rail line between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Listen
"We are getting ready to start this study," she said. "We wanted to reach out to the local communities to let people know that we are getting ready to start the study."
The TPC voted unanimously to approve a resolution honoring Ned Holmes, who served on the Texas Highway Commission from 2007 through 2012. He was not at the meeting and will be presented the resolution at a future event.
All other agenda items were approved. Agenda
All votes were unanimous except that Art Storey voted against amendments to the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program and 2035 Regional Transportation Plan Update.
Baytown Council Member Terry Sain, Missouri City Assistant City Manager Scott Elmer and Texas Department of Transportation Houston District Engineer Michael W. Alford were absent and not represented by alternate members. Montgomery County Commissioner Craig Doyal was represented by County Engineer Mark J. Mooney and Houston City Council Member Melissa Noriega was represented by Council Member Larry Green.