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No more DeLays: Sugar Land commuter rail plan back on track

No more DeLays: Sugar Land commuter rail plan back on track

Tom DeLay dance better
Tom DeLay blocked Sugar Land's commuter rail efforts for years.
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Sugar Land Mobility Plan Courtesy of KHOU/Channel 11
News_Sugar Land city hall_Feb 10
Sugar Land City Hall Courtesy of Sugar Land Town Square
Tom DeLay dance better
News_Sugar Land_commuter rail
News_Sugar Land city hall_Feb 10

As one of the nation's fastest growing cities, Sugar Land is poised to consider updated mobility options. Despite years of anti-mass transit lobbying by Tom DeLay, a movement in favor of commuter rail into Houston is forming, with U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-Houston) stating that a commuter rail project along U.S. 90A (South Main) is his number one priority.

This week, KHOU reported, the Sugar Land City Council is expected to review a mobility plan, which also allots for more bicycle and walking paths.

Commuter rail in that corridor has a long, frustrated history, as detailed in urban design blog NeoHouston. A 2003 transit referendum called for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to build commuter rail along U.S. 90A, and after a nine-month study, a $2 billion METRO Solutions Phase 2 timeline added a second commuter rail agenda along U.S. 290 from the Cypress Park & Ride. Then, in June 2008, a commuter rail plan presented to the Houston-Galveston Area Council nixed the U.S. 90A plan, citing increasing freight traffic on Union Pacific tracks already on the path as a primary obstacle.

But with a federal government that stands in favor of rail transit and politicos like Green and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett pushing for commuter rail to Sugar Land, the plans appear to be back on track.

Ultimate Fort Bend reports that the eight-mile track will cost about $250 million, with half funded by the federal government. The result would be a 30-minute ride from a station at Beltway 8 and U.S. 90A, connecting with the Fannin South light rail terminus.

One of the major hangups is that METRO doesn't currently meddle with Fort Bend county, which is why the train only stops at the fringe of Missouri City — a solid 17-minute drive from the center of Sugar Land. For Sugar Land residents with downtown offices, that makes for a 17-minute car ride, 30-minute commuter rail haul and a 35-minute light rail trip. That's getting close to an hour-and-a-half commute, compared to the car-ride to the city center, which can peak at 50 minutes in traffic.

Still, it would be a practical choice for Texas Medical Center workers and those looking to make friends with Dr. Seuss characters.

Sugar Land citizens will have the opportunity to comment at a public hearing in January.

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