Congressman John Culberson (TX-7) issued the following statement after the House passed the fiscal year 2013 transportation appropriations bill by a vote of 261 to 163:
"Today's House vote to approve the 2013 Transportation Appropriations bill is a significant milestone in my determined effort to protect Houston taxpayers from Metro's profligate spending and to protect the quality of life for property owners along Richmond Avenue and Post Oak Boulevard. I promised my constituents on these two streets that I would protect them, and I have always promised to guard the gate of the public treasury from wasteful and unwanted government spending.
"Rail on Richmond and Post Oak would forever destroy these two beautiful and historic streets, devastate the profitability of those businesses and evaporate the property value of the homes there. Just look at the moonscape that Metro rail has created on Main Street and the chaos and gridlock they have created on Fannin in the heart of our magnificent Texas Medical Center. Imagine what grade level rail would do to the Galleria.
"Unless we stop them, Metro will build grade level rail on Post Oak from Richmond to the 610 Loop and set up 23 new stop lights along the way and block all traffic every few minutes on every street in between, including Westheimer and San Felipe. Rail would then jump up onto the 610 Loop, wiping out the center lanes of this overcrowded freeway all the way north to the intersection with 290. Imagine the gridlock and the traffic jams. Those hugely successful businesses in the Galleria, that mean so much to our economy, and our quality of life would be destroyed.
"Not only would these rail lines devastate these two streets, but Metro now admits and the Federal Transit Administration has confirmed that Metro cannot afford to build these two rail lines, and the rail passengers are not necessary for the continued eligibility for full federal funding of existing North and Southeast rail lines. To top it off, voters never approved rail on Richmond in the 2003 election, and 96.1% of the property owners on Richmond do not want a rail line down the middle of their street. Metro also now admits rail on Richmond was never mentioned prior to the election.
"These rail lines are unaffordable, unnecessary and, in the case of Richmond, unapproved. Yet Metro will not walk away from them, so I am left with no choice but to prohibit federal funding or approval to build these lines. Coupled with the fact that Metro has a long history of being deceptive about their finances, I am also compelled to enact legislation calling for a detailed audit of Metro by the Inspector General of the FTA so we will know what Metro can and cannot afford to build. It is vitally important to prevent Metro from building more rail than Houston taxpayers can afford."
These two provisions will not have any impact on any current METRO contracts, including the recent federal grants to construct the Southeast Corridor and North Corridor lines. Rep. Culberson has fully supported federal funding for other projects that have been approved by the voters and have met the financial requirements of the FTA.