Houstonians passed a $3.5 billion bond referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot by a two thirds majority. Houston METRO can now proceed with the METRONext Moving Forward Plan. That effort is designed to relieve traffic as the region’s population explodes from seven million to an estimated 10 million people by 2040.
METRO's CEO Tom Lambert said “this plan will not introduce any new taxes, but rather give Metro the power to borrow money. The Moving Forward plan and the repayment plan would not change the funding that Metro contributes to the General Mobility Program, where money is refunded back to local governments to finance road and infrastructure projects.” The referendum was the first time METRO has gone to the voters since 2003.
The Houston METRO bond will create 75 miles of bus rapid transit routes and would add 16 miles of light rail, including 10 miles to the purple and green lines.
Connecting Houston's two airports remains a priority for METRO. The bond will support a train to Hobby Airport on the city's South side with an eventual rail line to Bush Intercontinental Airport on the North side. In the meantime bus rail transit (BRT) would connect downtown to the Bush airport.
Another proposed rail line would extend the current Red Line to the North Shepherd Park and Ride.
Part of the package will be a BRT line connecting downtown to the Northwest Transit Center, the proposed terminal for the Texas Central high speed rail line between Houston and Dallas.
Transportation Advocacy Group Houston (TAG-Houston) endorsed the November 5th referendum and on their website states "TAG endorses and supports authorizing the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Texas (METRO) issuing up to $3.5 billion in bonds for the purpose of improving and expanding the transit authority system throughout the Houston MSA. An increase in the investment of high capacity transit options remains a top priority for TAG, and we are proud of the work METRO continues to do to address these needs."
The bond referendum was also backed by the Houston Realty Business Coalition. The business consortium noted that as more people move into the region additional transit will be a priority. The alternative, according to the group, is watching Houston face more crippling congestion.
METRO will leverage the money to begin work on the overall $7.5 billion regional transit plan. METRO hopes to secure an additional $3.5 billion in federal funds.