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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2009, 2:41 PM
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Houston: Metro Nearing Deal on Next 4 Rail Lines

After two years of negotiations with two firms, the Metropolitan Transit Authority may be close to reaching a deal with a contractor to build and operate its next four light rail lines.

"We’re in final negotiations," said George Smalley, a Metro spokesman. "In a negotiation, though, you never know until it’s really over."

The pending breakthrough with Parsons Transportation Group comes three years before Metro has said all five of its additional rail lines will be complete. The fifth rail line, the University line, remains in preliminary stages of development; another agreement will have to reached on that line.

Despite the tight time frame for the new lines, Metro officials say they are sticking to the 2012 target date.

Metro’s Red Line, which runs along Main Street, has been operational since 2004.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s board has to approve the contract, which will likely appear on this week’s agenda, Smalley said.

Last April, Metro announced that Parsons Transportation Group would design, build, operate and maintain four of its rail lines after yearlong negotiations with Metro’s first choice, Washington Group International, fell apart. In the end, WGI and Metro were "hundreds of millions" of dollars apart, Metro’s President and CEO Frank J. Wilson said at the time.

Wilson declined to reveal WGI’s estimate for the North, Southeast, East End and Uptown lines, but the figure was made known to Parsons.

An analysis prepared last year put the cost of all five new rail lines, including the longer and costlier University line, at $2.6 billion.

Negotiations with Parsons covered maintenance and operation, elements not common in most rail contracts, industry sources said.

Any design flaws discovered during the first few years of operation will be taken care of by Parsons, Smalley said.


‘Still set on that path’

Metro leaders remain confident that the five lines, which total 30 miles, can be completed on schedule.

"We’re still set on that path," Smalley said, "but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy."

Valley Metro light rail in Phoenix opened its 20-mile, $1.4 billion line in December after four years of construction.

Metro’s negotiation process seems to have taken a reasonable length of time, given the scope of the project, said Henry Kay, a Maryland Transit Administration deputy administrator.

"I can see us easily taking that long to contract for far less value with far less at stake," Kay said. "They’re making a commitment to provide service over many years."

Negotiations began in January 2007, when Metro announced WGI would be its builder. After the deal failed, Metro paid WGI $77 million for its preliminary work which was handed over to Parsons. Metro has paid Parsons $11.8 million for its work under a temporary agreement.

Among the "moving parts" involved in the deal include the unknown amount of funds Metro may receive in the stimulus package, Smalley said. Metro has requested $410 million to help begin work on the North and Southeast lines and an additional $70 million to convert high-occupancy vehicle lanes into toll lanes.


http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6264974.html



It's nice to see that Metro is keeping on track with the target date of 2012!
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Old Posted Feb 16, 2009, 5:56 PM
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LOL, but only the East End line has actually begun construction. I think METRO would be doing well if they can finish up the Southeast and East End line by 2012, and be nearing completion on the other lines. Since both of these are almost ready to go, I think that's a more realistic goal. Now if we were Beijing, I'd say all bets are off
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  #3  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2009, 9:22 PM
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Wonderful wonderful news.
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Old Posted Feb 16, 2009, 10:05 PM
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This is great news for Houston.....opening them in 2012 though will be tough!!!
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2009, 4:08 AM
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They need to start on all of them. I am tiered of driving...
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  #6  
Old Posted Feb 24, 2009, 4:54 AM
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Are there any photos on here that show some of the construction that's already begun on the East End line? Here's hoping everything gets going very soon. It would be nice when I return to Houston in the future for visits with all of my old friends to actually have a good rail system for traveling around a fair amount of the city rather than being stuck on buses... though the one I'm most anxious for is the University line to make traveling to/from downtown much more easy than the slow moving Westheimer bus between Uptown and downtown.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2009, 5:10 PM
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I hope it happens for this great city.
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  #8  
Old Posted Feb 24, 2009, 7:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OhioGuy View Post
Are there any photos on here that show some of the construction that's already begun on the East End line? Here's hoping everything gets going very soon. It would be nice when I return to Houston in the future for visits with all of my old friends to actually have a good rail system for traveling around a fair amount of the city rather than being stuck on buses... though the one I'm most anxious for is the University line to make traveling to/from downtown much more easy than the slow moving Westheimer bus between Uptown and downtown.
They haven't laid any track for it yet, but the sight and utility work has been steady since September. I'll take some pics and post them on here.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2009, 9:01 PM
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Awesome! I can't wait to see them, because I haven't been to Houston in a while.
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Old Posted Mar 4, 2009, 10:05 PM
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Four Lines at a cost of 1.46B Approved.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6291626.html
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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 12:43 AM
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approved yeah...

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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 2:18 AM
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Also looks like they're going to use another type of vehicle, produced by CAF America, instead of the Siemens vehicles currently running along the Red Line.


Here's an image from METRO's Blog of the vehicle


And a page from the manufacturer on the vehicle.
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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 3:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wattleigh View Post
Also looks like they're going to use another type of vehicle, produced by CAF America, instead of the Siemens vehicles currently running along the Red Line.


Here's an image from METRO's Blog of the vehicle


And a page from the manufacturer on the vehicle.
CAF stats:
Consist: Five articulated boxes supported on three bogies
Doors clearance (mm): 1300/800
Doors per side: 6
Exterior width (mm): 2650
Height of floor (mm): 350
Length between bodyends (mm): 31260
Supply (Vdc. catenary): 750
Vehicle height (mm): 3390

Performance: Maximum speed: 70km/h, (43 mph)
Seating places per train unit: 54
Standing places per car: 221
Start up acceleration (m/s2): 1.2
Total power: 8 x 70kW (560kW total)

With a seating capacity of just 54 passengers, this is more like a modern streetcar than the Siemens light rail trains. Siemens S70 stats:

Rider capacity: 172
Passenger seats: 68
Mobility device spaces: 4
Bike racks: 4
Length: 95 feet
Width: 8.7 feet
Height: 12 feet
Weight: 99,500 pounds

Which probably isn't a bad thing because they will be running them in streets. Also note the lack of couplers, I hope Metro buys enough to have low headways on these streetcars, or most passengers will be standing. It might even be a good idea to sell the Siemens S70 trains to another transit agency which needs light rail vehicles, and buy more of these CAF streetcars for the Red line.

If these are good enough for Houston, why aren't they good enough for Austin?

Last edited by electricron; Mar 5, 2009 at 4:08 AM.
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  #14  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 1:01 PM
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Metro OKs $1.46 billion contract for rail



Metro OKs $1.46 billion contract for rail
Price tag for next phase stands at $73 million a mile
By ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
March 4, 2009, 9:55PM

The Metropolitan Transit Authority board of directors on Wednesday unanimously approved a $1.46 billion contract for four new light rail lines, which would add 20 miles to its lone seven-mile line along Main Street.

Under the contract, which came after almost a year of negotiations, Parsons Transportation Group is responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the new East End, Southeast, North and Uptown lines at an average cost of $73 million a mile. Metro has said the lines will be complete by 2012.

A fifth rail line, the University line, and an intermodal terminal near downtown still are planned, but are not included in the contract.

Metro officials said the agency intends to spend $632 million on the initial phase of the project, primarily on the East End line along Harrisburg as it is further along in the planning than the others.

“Today is obviously a very significant milestone in our building of the Metro Solutions program,” board Chairman David Wolff said moments before the vote. “Our objective is to improve transit in Houston.”

The first phase includes $390 million for the East End line and a rail vehicle service and inspection facility in that corridor.

Metro will spend another $93 million on what officials described as utility work in the Southeast, North and Uptown corridors.

The initial outlay also will include $118 million to buy 29 new light rail cars from manufacturer CAF USA Inc. Of those, 19 will be used on the existing Main Street line and 10 will go to the East End line.
Under original estimate

In his presentation to the board before the vote, Metro President and CEO Frank Wilson said the total cost of the contract was below the $1.57 billion estimate the agency gave to the Federal Transit Administration last year.

“This, in fact, is the largest contract this organization has ever let in its history,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think I’m wrong when I say this is the largest public works infrastructure contract in the Houston metropolitan area in history.”

Metro officials said they intend to fund the Uptown and East End lines using only local funds and short-term debt while continuing to pursue federal funds for the other lines.
$50 million in incentives

The transit agency also will rely on $150 million in lease-back agreements to help get the first phase of the project under way. The lease agreements allow agencies like Metro to sell railcars, buses and other assets to banks and lease them back at a lower cost. The banks then can claim depreciation of the assets in tax deductions.

The agency is set to receive $92 million in federal stimulus funds, money that can be used to buy rail cars or other project costs.

The contract includes $50 million in incentives for Parsons and the other contractors to complete the project early. Parsons and Veolia Transportation, which operates systems in 150 cities in the United States and Canada, will team up as the operations and maintenance contractor. Parsons also will be responsible for any design defects for five years after completion of the rail lines.
Will create 60,000 jobs

The initial contract allows Parsons to enter into a joint venture, HRT, made up of Parsons, Granite Construction Co., Kiewit Texas Construction and Stacy and Witbeck Inc. to design the new rail lines.

The FTA last year approved Metro’s environmental studies for the North and Southeast lines. That will enable the two projects to compete with others for up to 50 percent funding of those lines.

Wolff said he expects the FTA to sign off on Metro’s plan later this year.

Metro officials said the contract, which was approved by an 8-0 vote, will create 60,000 jobs, including 25,000 during the initial phase of construction.

The contract includes a minority and small business subcontracting goal of 35 percent.

Construction on the initial phase of the project likely will begin no earlier than June, a Metro spokesman said.

Jeff Moseley, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, told the Metro board that Houston’s business community was pleased with the inclusion of community input to help determine whether incentives should be awarded.
Scolded for secrecy

Under the contract, the community and Metro leaders will “score” contractors on their ability to maintain physical access to neighborhoods and businesses during construction of the light rail expansion.

Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones said she would be “ecstatic” if the amount set aside for minority and small business firms was achieved. She also scolded Metro leaders for not providing more details about the contract before the board’s vote.

“I think Metro needs to do a much better job with communicating with citizens,” she said, “because it is taxpayer money and citizens deserve meaningful input before decisions or contracts are made or signed.”

Metro officials had refused to disclose the overall price of the contract until just before the vote, saying negotiations with Parsons still were ongoing.

The Main Steet line opened in 2004, after three years of construction that cost an estimated $43 million per mile.
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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 4:28 PM
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These new lines will be more like modern streetcars running on the streets, right? The newer vehicles will be smaller and slower... does this mean they will sell off the current vehicles and replace them with the new ones?

What's the status on the faster regional service lines in the city?
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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 4:41 PM
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You know as funny as it sounds, I'm kind of like that METRO is going ahead with the 4 lines... especially the ones connected to to the Red Line. Eventhough we desperately need the University Line b/c it's the largest area of population, this lag time is going to help spur developments that will greatly improve the East End. Now that these lines will officially be under construction, East Enders will get to see the benefits of better retail choices, and more people moving to our areas first (yes I live near the East End and Southeast lines, so I'm biased).
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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 5:06 PM
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Whats the hold up on the University Line. I really would like that one built...
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  #18  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 6:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by njjeppson View Post
These new lines will be more like modern streetcars running on the streets, right? The newer vehicles will be smaller and slower... does this mean they will sell off the current vehicles and replace them with the new ones?

What's the status on the faster regional service lines in the city?
Current plan is to keep the current trains on the Red Line, as they expect it to continue to have high ridership (and increased ridership with the incorporation of the other lines). They don't expect to have as much traffic on the other lines, which is why they're moving to the smaller vehicles. In reality, we know that it's just b/c those vehicles are cheaper.

I just hope that these new lines will have bike racks.
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Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 10:35 PM
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Alot of the business owners in addition to the NIMBY's along Richmond are holding construction up, mostly due to concerns about parking and construction.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2009, 3:17 AM
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Hmm i understand that. But its best for the city. It will sux for a little bit but it will be all good in the end. At least i hope it is...

Plus now that i think about it. Richmond suxs. Its full of pot holes and its just bad. I avoid it thats for sure. It needs a major overhaul...

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