Building and maintaining a strong transportation infrastructure is vital to managing growth and ensuring the economic development of the 7th District and the entire state.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have secured over $46 million for design and engineering costs for Metro’s north and southeast rail lines, and over $7 million for its exemplary bus service. I also helped ensure that Metro was reimbursed for 50% of the construction costs of the Main Street Line since the line was approved by the Federal Transit Administration and financed entirely by Metro.
Two of my primary responsibilities are to protect our tax dollars from being wasted or overspent and to protect our quality of life in District 7. These vital responsibilities unavoidably compelled me to strenuously oppose Houston Metro’s unaffordable rail plan in the 2003 referendum. I passed legislation in the House in the summer of 2003 which required Metro to accurately detail how much rail they wanted voters to approve, how much it was going to cost, and precisely where they wanted to build it. Once I required Metro to tell the public the truth and put the details on the ballot, suddenly their public story changed and we found out the truth. No longer was it only 22 miles of rail at a cost of $640 million – they were actually trying to trick us into approving 72 miles of rail at a cost of nearly $9 billion. Once transparency was forced upon them, we discovered they were trying to build 14 times more rail than they had told voters. In fact, this was the largest capital improvement project in the history of Houston.
The only two segments in District 7 were on Post Oak north of Richmond, and the other was identified on the ballot as being built on “Westpark to the Hillcroft Transit Center.”
I always keep my word. So once Metro narrowly won the election, I have honored the will of the voter, and I have consistently supported federal funding for the rail segments approved by the voters. Once the election was over, Metro began to discuss building an at-grade rail line down the center of Richmond Avenue from Greenway Plaza to beyond the 610 Loop. This was not on the ballot, and as you can see from our survey results, 81% of the people who live, work or own property on Richmond are opposed to it. They organized their opposition and formally asked me to help them prevent this unapproved and unwanted rail line, and I agreed. I am protecting their quality of life, and I am also protecting our tax dollars by preventing Metro from building more “house” than taxpayers can afford.
In November 2011, for the first time, Metro and the FTA admitted to me privately and, less directly in writing, that Metro cannot afford to build any more rail beyond the three lines already under construction on Harrisburg, the North, and Southeast lines. Metro admitted to me that they never discussed Richmond before the election and that the ballot only specified Westpark. Additionally, both Metro and the FTA have confirmed that the other rail lines do not need the ridership from either Post Oak or the “University” line to continue.
This is simple.
These two rail lines are unaffordable, unnecessary and the Richmond line is unapproved by voters. For obvious reasons, both lines are strongly opposed by the people who live, work or own property on these two streets. Rail has destroyed most of the businesses on Main and Fannin and dramatically diminished their property values.
Despite the criticism from Houston Metro and the Houston Chronicle, I am proud to be standing up for the residents of District 7 and helping them stop an unwanted and unapproved rail project in their backyard.
In the past 25 years, the US 290 Corridor has seen remarkable growth. Population has increased by 57% and road usage has skyrocketed by 95%. State road capacity, however, has only grown by 8%. Over the next 25 years, the population in the corridor is expected to increase by 64% and road usage is expected to increase 214%. The chronically congested 290 Corridor is facing serious problems.
In 2009, I requested $267 million for the US 290 Corridor to relieve congestion and improve the quality of life for the people who live and work along the corridor. With $227 million designated for the US 290 Corridor Expansion Project and $40 million for the Hempstead Commuter Rail, Texans can look forward to more time at home with their families and less time on the road. In addition to reduced travel time, these funds will create over 50,000 jobs, attract new businesses to Houston, make the air we breathe cleaner, and expand a critical hurricane evacuation route.
Members of the Houston Community agree this request is an absolute necessity:
• Ed Emmett – Harris County Judge: “Commuter rail is a necessary part of solving the congestion problems in the 290/Hempstead corridor. I appreciate Congressman Culberson’s leadership in addressing this priority for Harris County residents.”
• Reginald Lillie – Chairman of the Board of Directors, Cy-Fair Chamber of Commerce: “I want to offer my very strong support for Congressman Culberson’s request in the highway reauthorization bill for $267 million for the reconstruction of Hwy 290 and the $ 40 million for commuter rail along Hwy 290 also. These two projects are critically important to the mobility and economic development of Cy-Fair/ NW Houston, Waller and Prairie View communities. This is proof of his commitment and willingness to use every means within his Congressional capacity to bring relief of a major mobility burden and the possibility of expanded economic development to the residents and businesses of these communities.”
• Barbara Thomason – President, Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce: “This is an extremely important corridor for northwest Harris County and one that has grown increasingly glutted in recent years from traffic resulting from the sheer growth of neighborhoods and business expansions. Without the influx of funding that could bring commuter rail and highway improvements to this corridor, we will quickly see the deterioration of this corridor. We see this as a critical, narrow window of time in which to act. We must be as proactive as possible so that our sprawling communities can have the infrastructure they need to maintain their economic health.”
To learn more about 290 Corridor Expansion Project, please click here.
The Katy Freeway:
My first promise to you in 2001 when I was sworn in as your new Congressman was to do whatever was necessary to get the Katy Freeway rebuilt as fast as humanly possible. In January 2001, the project was more than $500 million short, and was scheduled to be finished as late as 2016. Rather than accept a funding shortfall and lengthy construction timetable, I found a federal law that allowed the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to partner with the Harris County Toll Road Authority to expand the freeway in half time without any earmarked federal highway dollars.
According to TxDOT, without the $500 million infusion from the Harris County Toll Road Authority, other Houston transportation projects would have been delayed and the I-10 expansion would have been spread out over a much longer period of time.
Our federal gas tax dollars are stretched thin and often used for wasteful projects not even related to transportation. As a dedicated fiscal conservative, I can proudly report that I have kept my first promise to you by rebuilding the Katy Freeway in record time without any earmarks, and I am pushing to make the innovative Katy Freeway expansion a model for the rest of the country.
To learn more about the Katy Freeway project, visit www.katyfreeway.org.