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Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership
Gulf Coast Rail District Board of Directors
by Jim Guidry
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Gulf Coast Rail District Board of Directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to authorize Executive Director Maureen Crocker to enter into a contract for a West Belt Improvements Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Assessment. Listen (8:20)

“The West Belt Project is a series of grade separations along the West Belt Subdivision that runs through the near east side of downtown Houston,” Crocker explained.  “This project was recommended in the Houston Region Freight Study that TxDOT completed in 2007.

Crocker explained that the project was recommended to enhance freight operations in that six mile corridor.

“It’s an operational problem for the railroads and it’s also a large mobility problem for the community there,” she added.

GCRD Chair Bert Keller said that Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has been working with Union Pacific to gain the railroad’s approval by next month’s meeting.

“I feel it is extremely likely that within the next thirty days we will be moving forward on this project,” Keller said.

“I think there has been basically a reconsideration of positions and I think the stars are all aligned for this to come to pass,” agreed Hugh McCulley of BSNF Railroad.

The board voted unanimously to approve a revision to the rail district’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocation. Listen (8:53)

“The rail district received $2 million of stimulus funding to do some preliminary work for commuter rail operations in the region and it was really to carry on where the Houston-Galveston Area Council work had left off several years ago,” Crocker explained.  “Initially when we entered into agreement with TxDOT we had some well-defined tasks and budgets that we wanted to work with; and over time I think some of the priorities have changed.”

The board voted unanimously to welcome Kathy Rogers who was recently appointed by Galveston County Judge Mark Henry. Listen (2:12)

The board referred a proposed resolution regarding GCRD financial procedures to the Bylaws Committee.

All other agenda items were approved unanimously.

In her Executive Director’s Report Crocker noted the inclusion of transportation funding to the special session of the Texas Legislature.  Keller, who signed a letter to the governor along with other officials from the region requesting the inclusion of transportation funding, credited Judge Emmett for the effort. Article

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