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Posts published in “Day: July 21, 2009

Federal funds allow work to start on two METRO lines

NORTHEAST – Officials held simultaneous groundbreakings last Monday morning, July 13 to mark the start of construction on light rail lines. Participating at the North Corridor ceremony on Fulton Street were METRO Chairman David Wolff, Congressman Gene Green, and City Councilman Ed Gonzalez.

The day of celebration kicked off with two separate ceremonies at the North and Southeast corridors, as well as a reception at the East End corridor. Participants from each corridor event were then transported via METRO buses to the grand finale at Union Station at Minute Maid Park.

At the North Corridor event, Chairman Wolff announced that the first work order for $121 million has officially been signed. That means initial construction on the North and Southeast lines is expected to get underway in the coming days. Activity on the East End line, which is already under construction, will increase.

All three lines – the North, Southeast and East End – are slated to be completed by 2012, and will add approximately 14 miles of light rail to METRO’s existing Main Street Red Line. The speakers also honed in on the significance of $150 million set aside in President Obama’s FY2010 budget to help build the North and Southeast lines. The two rail lines were among five transit projects in the nation selected to receive funding.

Traveling from the nation’s capital to the Bayou City to participate in the festivities were U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Congressman Al Green (D-TX). Joining the delegation were Mayor Bill White and Houston City Council members, as well as METRO Board Chairman David S. Wolff and METRO Board members.

Rep. Gene Green, on July 15, announced that the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has preliminarily approved $150 million for Houston METRO’s North and Southeast lines, with $75 million dedicated to each project. This funding would include final design, land acquisition, and construction for the first segments on the North Corridor and Southeast Corridor Projects.

“The President’s FY2010 budget asked that $150 million be appropriated to Houston METRO for construction on the North and Southeast Corridor Projects, and I thank the subcommittee for realizing the importance of these projects by placing it in their recommendations,” said Green.

“While there are still several steps to take before final approval of funding for these projects occurs, I am glad Congress continues their commitment to public transportation in Houston.”

There has been an effort in Congress to foster the development and revitalization of public transportation systems that maximize mobility, minimize environmental impacts and minimize transportation-related fuel consumption. The subcommittee included $10.5 billion for public transportation projects in their recommendations.

The Houston Business Journal reports that Houston traffic is the ninth worst in the nation. Houston drivers spent 123.9 million hours in traffic in 2007 and use almost 90 million more gallons of fuel because of the delays every year, costing over $2.5 billion.

“I am joined by the rest of the Houston delegation, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and Congressman Al Green in thanking Chairman of the Subcommittee John Oliver for his continued support of Texas’ transportation needs,” said Green. “Houston’s population continues to increase and the metropolitan area expands everyday. We need to work to widen the reach of our public transportation system so that it serves more Houstonians and helps protect our city.”

Small and local businesses are expected to receive $300 million to $385 million in eligible contract work.

HCC meeting at North Forest presents benefits of Annexation

A large crowd of interested citizens turned out last Tuesday evening at North Forest Shadydale school, to hear a presentation by representatives of the Houston Community College Northeast.

The meeting was one of a series, as preparation for an election in November that will determine whether the North Forest ISD becomes part of the HCC-NE service area. The consequences of this election were explained by a panel of HCC board members, and by HCC-NE president Margaret Ford Fisher.

In addition, comments were heard from about a dozen members of the audience, and a telephone message from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in support of the annexation, and questions and comments about the financial and academic consequences of the vote, voiced by State Senator Mario Gallegos.

Most of the comments from the public were in favor of the annexation, and emphasized that it was time for a change and improvements in North Forest. President Fisher pointed out that an election was necessary because over 3000 validated signatures on a petition had requested the election. She explained the Service Plan, emphasizing that HCC-NE has had a commitment to the North Forest community since 1971. It currently provides dual credits for high school juniors and seniors, which since 2005 have equaled $350,000 in waived tuition.

If the annexation is successful, benefits to North Forest would include reduced tuition, going from $104 per credit hour, to half that, or $57, not including fees. This means a full-time student would save about $1600 for the fall and spring semester. Other benefits promised by HCC would be an Early College High School, and a satellite campus named North Forest Vocational and Technical Training Institute.

HCC also plans to work with NFISD to develop an Early Childhood Education program. Senator Gallegos questioned the cost of this annexation, and HCC’s long term commitment. Fisher responded that the tax rate is $.092 per $100 of assessed value, and showed a chart that displayed the average cost to a homeowner of $35 per year. For a senior citizen, because of their exemptions the cost would be zero, she said. Fisher pointed out that no tax increase is planned in the near future, and that in 2007 the HCC board actually decreased the tax rate.

After his questions were answered, Gallegos said he wanted to make it clear that he supported the HCC annexation proposal for North Forest. Earlier Meeting results HCC’s Board of Trustees is expected to call an election for November on the issue of adding the North Forest Independent Schools District to its district following a petition drive by local residents asking for the annexation.

HCC invited local stakeholders to a meeting on strategic priorities for the community to help guide them in developing a service plan for the area. Fifty-nine community leaders attended the meeting at the former Forest Brook High School June 24. They included current and former NFISD Board Members, representatives of the North Forest Chamber of Commerce, ministers, civic club members and leaders of the Super Neighborhood organizations.

Using as its base the results of a Visioning Session on HCC and North Forest done in 2005, the stakeholders discussed various priorities and chose the ones they felt were most important. Lafayette Howell facilitated the meeting to help with their work.

The attendees chose as their top priority “Develop a high school to college continuum in the community.” As part of this priority, they want to see HCC create an Early College High School with NFISD that includes a North Forest Vocational Technical Campus. In addition, they want HCC to help transition students from a high school diploma to a two-year degree in the academic or career/technical area. Part of this priority includes adult education, continuing education and English as a Second Language programs. HCC Northeast, NFISD, community groups and organizations would work together to create student internships, co-op opportunities, mentorships and employment.

The second highest priority was “Enhanced knowledge and skill development within economic and social context.” The stakeholders want to develop a business incubator and small business technology support services for the North Forest community, as well as supporting residents who want to explore new economic opportunities, update their work-related skills or pursue vocational interests. The idea is to provide programs in areas vital to the economic development of NFISD and the community and work to keep skilled individuals in the North Forest Community.

“Improved access to education and training at HCC” was the third-ranked priority. This includes adult literacy and College Connections programs at NFISD, expanded student support and retention in existing programs and working with local employers to provide tuition reimbursement, teaching current workers new skills and building programs to link low-skill jobs to higher-skilled work at higher wages.

The fourth priority is for an “Expanded range of programs and services for North Forest residents.” The attendees want HCC to maintain the affordability of a post-secondary education through tuition, financial assistance, scholarships and tuition reimbursement, as well as expanding access to other means of education such as hybrid courses and workplace or community-based programs.

Green anuncia $150M para Houston METRO norte y pasillos surorientales

Representante Gene Green, el 15 de julio, anunció que el subcomité de La Casa de Represestantes en el transporte, cubierta y desarrollo urbano, y las agencias relacionadas han aprobado preliminar $150 millones para Houston METRO norte y líneas surorientales, con $75 millones dedicados a cada proyecto.

Esta financiación incluiría diseño, la adquisición de tierra, y la construcción finales para los primeros segmentos en el pasillo del norte y los proyectos surorientales del pasillo.

Ha habido un esfuerzo en congreso para fomentar el desarrollo y la revitalización de los sistemas de transporte públicos que maximizan movilidad, reducen al mínimo consecuencias para el medio ambiente y reducen al mínimo la consumición de combustible transporte-relacionada.

El subcomité incluyó $10.5 mil millones para los proyectos del transporte público en sus recomendaciones. El diario del negocio de Houston divulga que el tráfico de Houston es el noveno peor de la nación. Los conductores de Houston pasaron 123.9 millones de horas en tráfico en 2007 y usan casi 90 millones de más galones de combustible debido a los retardos cada año, cálculo del coste sobre $2.5 mil millones.

La población de Houston continúa aumentando y la zona metropolitana amplía diario. Necesitamos trabajar para ensanchar el alcance de nuestro sistema de transporte público de modo que sirva más Houstonians y las ayudas protejan nuestra ciudad.”