UPDATED: Unofficial results show METRO bond passing with strong support

METRO
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has a $3.5 billion bond referendum on Nov. 5 ballots. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has a $3.5 billion bond referendum on Nov. 5 ballots. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)

Updated 7:45 a.m. Nov. 6

Voters have given the green light to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

With all voting centers accounted for across the county, unofficial results show METRO passing its $3.5 billion bond referendum with 67.9% of the vote, a total of 222,863 votes. The agency found strong support after early votes were tallied, and that support did not fade at all throughout the counting of Election Day ballots.

The bond money will help fund projects in the agency's $7.5 billion METRONext Moving Forward Plan.

"The referendum's approval signals the beginning of a process to develop the plan's projects," METRO officials said in a statement released Nov. 6. "Those include 290 miles of route enhancements, signature bus service plus accessibility and usability improvements for the disabled and seniors, and other projects, such as 75 miles of METRORapid bus service, 21 new or improved Park & Ride transit centers, and the 16 mile METRORail extension to Hobby Airport, the city of Houston Municipal Court House and the North Shepherd Park and Ride."


The $3.5 billion in bonding authority will be borrowed over the next 20 years, officials said. The METRONext plan outlines start and end points for many of the proposed rail and bus line extensions, but timelines and the specifics of each route will be determined following future public meetings, which have yet to be scheduled.

METRO's plan was endorsed by the Greater Houston Partnership, among other groups. In a statement, partnership CEO Bob Harvey said he was pleased with the public's support.


“This is a good win for Houston, as our ability to quickly and efficiently move people around the region is key to our continued growth and success," he said. "The METRONext plan is reasonable and prudent, and we appreciate the importance METRO placed on fiscal responsibly while enhancing regional mobility."

All results are unofficial until canvassed.


Updated 11 p.m.

With votes tallied from 58 of Harris County's 757 voting centers, the $3.5 billion bond referendum for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County is still poised to pass with 57.8% of the vote, or 97,408 votes. A total of 46,340 votes have been cast against the referendum as of 11 p.m. on Election Day, but votes continued to be counted late on election night.

A statement from Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman on Nov. 1 warned of slow returns but declined to give a definitive timeline. A recent change in reporting procedure requirements from Texas Secretary of State was anticipated to cause delays, Trautman said.

All results are unofficial until canvassed.


Posted 7:45 p.m.

With early voting results in, the $3.5 billion bond referendum for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County is on track to pass with 67.9% of voter approval, a total of 91,843 votes. The early voting total also includes absentee ballots.

The referendum, which was placed before voters across the county, will allow METRO to borrow the $3.5 billion over the next 20 years to fund projects ranging from new light rail lines to new rapid transit bus routes.

Specifics on how the bond money will be used are laid out in the agency’s METRONext Moving Forward Plan, which calls for 75 miles of new rapid bus service, 16 miles of new light rail—including an extension to Hobby Airport—and new construction or improvements on 21 park and ride stations. The plan also calls for new or improved high occupancy vehicle lanes, including two-way HOV lanes along I-45 North, I-10 West, Hwy. 249 and parts of Hwy. 59 Southwest.

The bond attracted the endorsements of several Houston area economic development and transportation groups, including the Greater Houston Partnership, Transportation Advocacy Group’s Houston chapter and the Houston Association of Realtors.

The funding, along with $500 million in local funds, could also help bring in another $3.5 billion in federal matching funds, according to METRO estimates. Funds will only be borrowed when projects are fully developed and funded by other sources, METRO Board Chairperson Carrin Patman said.

METRO will finance the bonds using money collected through a $0.01 sales tax throughout Harris County. The sales tax rate will not be affected by the bond, and METRO does not collect property taxes. Specific timelines for projects are still to be determined and will depend on a variety of factors, officials said, including the federal grant process and additional public comment periods.

In a draft of METRO’s fiscal year 2020 budget, the agency projected to bring in $806 million in sales tax revenue, up from $762 million in fiscal year 2019. About one quarter of sales tax revenue each year goes to METRO’s General Mobility Program, which funds road projects in Harris County and METRO’s 15 member cities.

The last time METRO put a bond referendum on the ballot was in 2003, when voters narrowly approved a $640 million bond that helped pay for METRO's Red Line—which runs through downtown, the museum district and medical center—among other projects.


All results are unofficial until canvassed.
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By Shawn Arrajj

Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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