Local

Project could create bus line for Houston's Uptown area

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Workers and shoppers headed to the Galleria area could soon catch a ride without all the traffic. It's a different kind of bus line that would run down Post Oak Boulevard from the West Loop to Westpark. But it's not METRO who'd make this happen.

This is something the other cities are implementing. It's essentially making a high-end bus operate like a rail line. It's called Bus Rapid Transit, and you might see it in about two years.

Post Oak Boulevard, which runs through the Uptown Management District that largely makes up the Galleria area, is planning to undergo major reconstruction.

As the 15th-largest office market in the nation, about 100,000 people work in the area, which will be a major factor in the upgrades.

"We have to be able to get those people who work in this area in from their homes," said John Breeding with the Uptown Management District.

Breeding says the area can't wait at least another decade for the METRO Transit Authority to construct rail lines.

"We had hoped that METRO's transit plan would have been implemented in a time frame that was meaningful," he said.

But because of financial setbacks on a local and federal level, METRO doesn't have the resources to build the entire system.

Since 2006, METRO has spent more than &45 million on design, analysis and studies of the Uptown Line, some of which are now useless and outdated.

With the Uptown Houston taking the lead and bringing METRO in as a partner on their transit plan, it will considerably expedite a Bus Rapid Transit project.

"Years, several years -- that's is why it is very exciting. Because out of the total cost, they are willing to put in approximately half the cost," METRO Chairman Gilbert Garica said.

So who will fund the $180 million project?

Uptown Houston is applying for $61 million in federal grants and plans to pick up much of the remaining $120 million itself using it's tax increment reinvestment zone.

The investment would bring bus-only center lanes on Post Oak Boulevard, stretching from the West Loop down to Richmond.

"We view it as a rubber tired, very unique, highly branded bus system, a high level of service and I think that is going to serve us for the next 20 years or so," Breeding said.

The Uptown Management District is hopefully they could see approval of their federal funds in a couple of months, meaning groundbreaking would happen in 2015 and completion of the project in 2017.
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metro, local, erik barajas
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