Transportation experts field questions on METRONext, interstate projects at town hall

(From left to right) U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, Houston City Council Member David Robinson, METRO CEO Thomas Lambert and METRO Project Manager Priya Zachariah discuss Houston transportation needs and solutions at a town hall on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

(From left to right) U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, Houston City Council Member David Robinson, METRO CEO Thomas Lambert and METRO Project Manager Priya Zachariah discuss Houston transportation needs and solutions at a town hall on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

Representatives from Houston’s City Council, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County presented plans for transportation improvements in the Houston area at a town hall meeting called by U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher at Houston Community College's West Loop campus May 29.

“My goals for the district I serve are to help us move people, goods and water. Those are the top priorities,” Fletcher said. “There is a cost of doing nothing, and so our committee is very focused on identifying the ways that we can improve service transportation, and that means roads, bridges and tunnels.”

METRO planning manager Priya Zachariah gave a presentation on METRO’s Moving Forward Plan, an expansion of the transportation agency’s services, and said the plan aims to alleviate congestion on Houston’s roads.

“We were told that transit needed to serve more people and get to more destinations,” Zachariah said. “Even for non-transit users, there is a benefit of improved air quality and taking vehicles off the road, which is about a 134,000 car trips off the road, or one million fewer vehicular miles driven every day.”

TxDOT Houston District Engineer Quincy Allen gave updates on road projects in the area and said that the West Loop and I-69 interchange project was ahead of schedule and that construction on I-45 was slated to begin in 2021.

“We’re working very hard to make the system as safe as possible, especially in Houston,” Allen said.

Questions and comments from the audience addressed concerns about a lack of pedestrian and bicycle accessibility and safety, the negative impact of roadway construction on local businesses and how much METRONext would fix traffic congestion in Houston.

“Once you put in a truly multi-modal approach that’s got the focus on universal accessibility, a focus on safety, a focus on customer service … once that opportunity is there and it’s frequent, it’s reliable, it’s convenient and it gets people safely where they want to go, more and more people will choose that,” METRO CEO Thomas Lambert said. “It’s going to take everything we can do to move people, and we’re just one part of the partnership in giving people opportunities of  choice in how we can ease congestion in this region.”
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