US 90A/Southwest Rail Corridor (SWRC)

Project Background

Project Goals

A series of goals have been identified to accomplish the purpose of the project. The following goals will help address the transportation challenges and opportunities in the US 90A/Southwest Rail corridor:

  • Improving regional transit system connectivity between the US 90A/Southwest Rail corridor and major activity centers and destinations;
  • Providing additional transit capacity in the US 90A/Southwest Rail corridor;
  • Improving interregional connections to the existing and planned METRORail system;
  • Reducing existing and projected traffic congestion on freeways and thoroughfares within the corridor;
  • Improving air quality by getting cars off the road and reducing the stop and go flow of traffic congestion;
  • Meeting the needs of planned, high-density mixed-use development that will depend on future high capacity transit service;
  • Responding to corridor communities’ expressed need for a direct trip to the TMC;
  • Providing access to communities along the corridor with stations between Missouri City and Fannin South.

Purpose and Need for the Project

The purpose of the proposed project is to improve mobility, accessibility, and system linkage between the major residential areas in the Missouri City and southwest Houston areas and major employment centers, such as downtown Houston and the TMC. The proposed transit improvement would provide a high capacity transit alternative with greater reliability to help reduce traffic congestion in the corridor and further the implementation of regional transit connectivity.

The Houston metropolitan area is a severe nonattainment area for the 8-hour ground level ozone standard. This designation requires all transportation projects in the region to conform to a regional transportation plan that reduces auto emissions. Failure to be part of a conforming plan results in a lack of federal funds for that project. Traffic congestion degrades air quality by the stop and go action and increases mobile source emissions. Efficient and desirable transit service can help reduce the number of automobiles on the road and improve the flow of traffic, helping improve air quality.

Public comments received during the scoping process expressed the need for a direct trip to the TMC without having to transfer. In addition to the request for direct service, communities along the corridor expressed the desire to be able to use the proposed service. The alternatives identified will be measured against the following transit needs:

  • Providing direct service from Missouri City to the TMC;
  • Offering a travel time from Missouri City to the TMC that is competitive with peak period automobile travel time, which is currently 24 minutes and projected to be approximately 30 minutes in 2035;
  • Providing a one-seat ride to TMC without a transfer;
  • Provide stations to serve communities along the corridor.

Existing Transportation Deficiencies in the Corridor

The transportation system deficiencies in the US 90A/Southwest Rail corridor include the following:

  • Heavy congestion on US 59, which serves a similar travel market as US 90A, limits its ability to carry projected traffic volumes. US 59 was reconstructed and widened to its ultimate width in 2004. It cannot be widened to increase capacity because of limited right-of-way and existing development patterns;

  • The existing single, reversible, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on US 59 cannot serve both inbound and outbound travel demand at the same time. Current percentage of inbound and outbound directional splits for the main lanes is 66 percent to 34 percent during the morning peak period, and 42 percent to 58 percent during the evening peak period (Texas Transportation Institute 2006);

  • Anticipated population and employment growth is expected to intensify traffic congestion in the corridor;

  • Lack of alternatives to single occupant vehicle (SOV) trips limits the ability to serve the growing demand to access major activity and employment centers in the region.

Existing deficiencies in the public transit system within the study area include:

  • Slow and congested connections to the regional transit system between the US 90A/Southwest Rail corridor and major activity centers throughout the Houston area because of street-running bus routes caught in automobile traffic;

  • Slow and unreliable bus speeds due to existing and projected traffic congestion;

  • Lack of high capacity transit service with reliable travel times to meet existing and projected demand;

  • Need for better connectivity to the existing and planned METRORail system.

Preliminary Alternatives

The US 90A/Southwest Corridor has been the subject of discussion for many years in terms of the projected growth and potential future development, the transportation needs and challenges, and the range of the possible transportation solutions. It was included in METRO Solutions as a potential commuter rail corridor.

METRO has performed early analysis of potential impacts and order of magnitude costs for preliminary alternatives and held initial meetings with public officials and stakeholders within the corridor. METRO has been looking at various funding options and different ways of initiating a formal public process. Based upon these early considerations, and for the purposes of stimulating discussion during the scoping process, the initial list of alternatives for consideration include:

  • No Build Alternative
  • Alternative 1 – North of UP Railroad – Buffalo Lakes/West Bellfort
  • Alternative 2 – North of UP Railroad/Fannin
  • Alternative 3 – UP Right-of-Way – Fannin
  • Alternative 4 – Between UP Railroad and US 90A – Buffalo Lakes/West Bellfort
  • Alternative 5 – South of US90A – Buffalo Lakes/West Bellfort

Technology alternatives will be addressed during the EIS process including those alternatives that would require use of Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) compliant rail vehicles, such as would be case with Build Alternative 3.

The preliminary alternatives are illustrated below.
90A / Southwest rail corridor

2/7/11 - Download Media Briefing Presentation (PDF)

 

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