One of the presents we Houston light rail enthusiasts were hoping to get this Christmas was the opening of the METRORail Green and Purple lines this month like METRO did for the Red Line extension last year.
The opening of the lines had already been delayed earlier this year to October. Because of problems with the Siemens axle counters that help METRO keep track of the rail cars and construction damage to a chilled water pipe under the Purple Line downtown, it pushed the opening of the new lines back to April 2015.
The opening of those lines when it finally happens will add another 10 miles of track to the already operational METRORail Red Line.
Far from ‘nobody riding it’ as rail critics deriding it as ‘the toy train’ loudly sneer, the METRORail is four years ahead of ridership projections with over 100 million boardings on just one 12.8 mile rail line. It is the second heaviest traveled rail system in the southern US.
One of the things delaying the opening is the new 1000 room Marriott Marquis Convention Hotel being constructed near the shared tracks of the Green and Purple Lines by Minute Maid Park. A chilled water pipe under that line was accidentally damaged by construction workers.
The repairs to it required tearing up the roadway, the section of light rail track above the damaged chilled water line it along with the fiber optics and communications, and then rebuilding and testing it to ensure it works properly. That process took twelve weeks, making it next to impossible for METRO to open the lines this year.
While we’re waiting for service to start on the Green and Purple Lines, there has been progress made in getting the CAF rolling stock that will be transiting the new lines when they finally do open for revenue service.
Out of the 39 cars contracted for by METRO, 12 have been delivered. Car 301, the lead one in the CAF ordered rail vehicles has successfully completed its ‘burn-through’ testing..
Construction has also been completed on the Central Transit Station which although it isn’t as show stopping as the one the design contest winners came up with, will be ready when the Green and Purple lines finally open for service.