April 2010  

Harris County and High-Speed Rail

Over the past year, high-speed rail has become one of the most discussed transportation options in the United States and is becoming a more common item on government agendas. A fully developed passenger rail system would complement highway, aviation and public transit systems to help relieve the traffic congestion experienced in most regions of the country. Such projects often promote economic development, create new choices for travelers in addition to flying or driving, reduce national dependence on oil, and encourage livable urban and rural communities.
The true potential of a high-speed passenger rail network that links cities and rail systems, however, will not be achieved or realized overnight.
Harris County recognizes the value this transportation alternative would bring to our region. Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved rejoining the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, which is working to bring high-speed intercity passenger rail to Texas. In addition, initial discussions have begun to explore potential use of existing rail corridors to provide a direct Houston-to-Dallas connection.

Gulf Coast Rail District Hempstead Project Update

On March 8, the Gulf Coast Rail District executed a nine-month study for a commuter rail line using the existing Union Pacific Railroad "Eureka" track along the U.S. 290/Hempstead corridor. The study will review operations from the Eureka Junction area at the intersection of Old Hempstead Highway and Old Katy Road near Interstate 10 and move north to Hempstead.
The hope is to have commuter rail up and running along the 40-mile line within five years. The Gulf Coast Rail District and other agency partners will identify specific commuter rail line station locations, determine where and how to connect with other transportation systems, and identify ridership. “This is an enormous step in the right direction toward bringing commuter rail to our region,” said Mark Ellis, chairman of the district's board. Studies over the last decade have shown that it will take a combination of transportation modes: freeway expansion, managed lanes, and commuter rail to handle the projected growth in Harris County. For more information on this study and other Gulf Coast Rail District initiatives, please visit www.gcrd.net/projects.htm.

U.S. 290 Corridor Passenger Rail Study

Imagine being able to continue by train from Houston on past Hempstead to Austin for a weekend in the Hill Country - or on Sixth Street. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), through its Rail Division, has begun a U.S. 290 Corridor Passenger Rail Study to review options for passenger rail service along the U.S. 290 corridor between Austin and Houston with a connection to Bryan/College Station. The initial stages of the study will include preliminary alignments and profiles for this rail service. The Gulf Coast Rail District, TxDOT, and other agency partners are coordinating on this study.
To Avoid Hassles, Keep your EZ TAG Account Information Updated
Harris County is home to nearly 4 million residents spread over 1,700 square miles. Traveling around a county of this size can sometimes be challenging, but Harris County has one of the best toll road systems in the nation. The Harris County Toll Road Authority system consists of approximately 107 miles of roadway in the Houston / Harris County area and 12 miles in Ft. Bend County. This is a tremendous asset for residents needing to get from one part of the county to another in a short time. Add an EZ TAG to the equation, and things just get better.
EZ TAGs are a convenient way to use the Harris County toll road system and to cut down on travel time. The tags provide customers the advantage of avoiding lines at toll booths and permit access to EZ TAG-only sections of toll roads. To be sure you maintain trouble-free traveling around the toll road system, be sure to keep your EZ TAG account information up to date.
EZ TAG account-holders make up 30-35% of toll violators, however. These customers receive violations because tolls cannot be collected from their accounts. This happens when the payment method on file cannot be billed to replenish the toll balance. To avoid a violation, customers must notify the Harris County Toll Road Authority when:
their credit card expiration date is updated
their credit card on file is lost or stolen
their credit card balance has reached its limit and an alternate payment method must be provided
they want to increase their minimum prepaid toll balance (for heavy users, this decreases the frequency with which their card needs to be charged to replenish the balance)
the email address on file changes
EZ TAGs are associated with license plates and with the registered owner of that plate. Sometimes EZ TAG customers receive violations if they:
sold their vehicle and did not transfer the title
purchased a new vehicle and did not update the plate on their EZ TAG account
received new license plates and did not update the plate on their EZ TAG account
drove a different car from the one listed on their account
Notifying the Harris County Toll Road Authority of these changes will ensure that your EZ TAG account remains in good standing. Log in to your account at https://www.hctra.org, call 281-875-3279 (EASY) or visit one of the five EZ TAG Store locations to update your information. Remembering to do these things will prevent you from receiving toll violations and will ensure hassle-free travel around the toll road system.