Clear Lake Chatter: Mayors Update BayTran on a Variety of Topics

July 1st, 2018

BayTran Chairman David Hamilton, left, Binkley & Barfield executive vice president, welcomes League City Mayor Pat Hallisey, center, and Pearland Mayor Tom Reid to the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership luncheon at the Marriott South Hotel.

THE MAYORS of League City and Pearland often attend the monthly luncheons hosted by the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership, so why not let them be the program and give an update on their Harvey problems?

Both Mayor Tom Reid of Pearland and Mayor Pat Hallisey of League City thought it was a good idea and presented quite an interesting program that all appeared to enjoy.

After briefly focusing on Hurricane Harvey, the conversation changed to transportation with Mayor Hallisey recalling that his city of 110,000+ had only 5,000 residents when he moved there, going on to talk about how transportation had played a big role in the city’s rapid growth, even back in 1893 when Kansas Street was formed. Forty-eight percent of the city’s land is still undeveloped, he added.

Mayor Reid then remembered back when his city of 135,000 plus had only 3,000 folks in 1965. Today it is the 33rd largest city in Texas, he said, the fifth safest city in the state and the third largest in land area – 48 square miles. More than 9,000 work at the Texas Medical Center, he said, adding, “Mobility has been a blessing.”

“We’ve focused on transportation and maintaining a quality lifestyle,” he explained, added that Pearland was spread over three counties and he expected it wouldn’t be long before the population topped the 200,000 mark. But before it ended, their thoughts turned to money, or the lack thereof, to build roads to carry all these people to work, to school and to the grocery store.

Volunteers Ann Wismer Landolt, Katie Jones, Chairman Wendy Drapela and Karen Keesler line up for a photo as guests begin arriving for the Las Vegas dining event. Photo by Jill Reason

Festival off to a happy start
LUNAR RENDEZVOUS is moving right along so fast we can hardly keep up with it. Already the Golf Tournament, Spa Night and Lunar Las Vegas are history as we prepare for the next round of events.

First event in July will be the Sunset Service at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 15 at the Clear Creek Community Church on Egret Bay Boulevard between Clear Lake and League City.

Next, comes the Down to the Derby Fashion Show, starting at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 17 at the San Luis Convention Center overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.

Then the gala conclusion of the festival – the Coronation Ball, which has an Arabian Nights theme and starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 21 also at the San Luis Convention Center.

HELPING OTHERS WAS NEVER SO MUCH FUN!

FASHION SHOW luncheons are always enjoyable, but so much more fun when everyone knows their enjoyment is going to bring joy to others, as did this year’s Dogs & Divas.

Held at South Shore Harbour Resort, proceeds will benefit both the Bay Area Turning Point and its partnership with Friends of League City Animal Shelter that led to their forming Safe Paws, which provides a safe place for the pets of those seeking shelter from abusive situations.

And, what could be more charming than both lovely ladies and wide-eyed pooches coming down the runway in fashionable outfits? Yes, one slightly embarrassed pooch even wore a multi-color lace skirt!

Carla Medlenka, BATP Board chairman, and Leigh Ann Fry, the new BATP president, welcomed the crowd and introduced TV Ch. 11 anchor Lisa Hernandez, who served as emcee for the show, after the invocation by Pastor Brad Heintz. Later, Ralph Kramer got the place humming as he conducted the auction.

Area still facing many challenges county judges tell BayTran crowd

July 1st, 2018

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta and Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, from left, stop for a photo together at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South Hotel.

The annual State of the Counties Luncheon is always the highlight of the year for the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership, and this year was no different with President Theresa Rodriguez greeting many area mayors and city councilors, eager for an update.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Brazoria County Judge Mark Sebesta each talked about the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the transportation challenges they face and what they hope for the future.

After Chairman David Hamilton welcomed the crowd — that included Mayors Pat Hallisey of League City, Jeff Wagner of Pasadena, Tom Reid of Pearland, Carl Joiner of Kemah, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Thom Kolupski of Seabrook, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Mark Denman of Nassau Bay — the Charles A. Jacobson Award was presented by Judge Emmett.

The 2018 recipient was Port of Houston Authority Chairman Janiece Longoria, an attorney who is a frequent speaker on the importance of Port Houston, infrastructure and transportation.

Noting that the award, is presented each year to a community leader who continues the work started by aerospace executive Chuck Jacobson, the founder of the Bay Area Transportation Partnership who worked tirelessly to promote and advance transportation and infrastructure development around the region, Emmett, himself a past recipient of the award, seemed pleased to make the presentation, adding that it is “people like her that makes society tick.”

Judge Emmett gave a quick update on Harris County, which he told the crowd is the only county in the entire country with 2 million people, noting that one gets more house for his money here than most places before going on to point out some of the difficulties with the county having property taxes as its only income, whereas it needed more revenue sources. “We need an honest conversation about building roads,” he told the crowd. “We need your help.”

Judge Sebesta said Harvey was not a hurricane, but a bad-a– rain storm that flooded 13,000 homes in Brazoria County. “Harvey was the significant event of a lifetime,” he added.

Then, to update the BayTran crowd, he said the Highway 288 project was actually under construction “…after talking about it for years.” The project actually came to fruition through a partnership working with Pearland and TxDOT, he added.

Judge Henry, just re-elected to his third term and happy over the recent passage of a proposed bond issue, said Galveston County is facing many challenges with all the road work TxDOT has under way along I-45 from the north county line past Highways 518 and 646. “Evacuation this summer might be a real challenge,” he said, adding with a smile that the best travel time along the freeway in Galveston County is between 2 and 4 a.m. The construction work will not be completed until 2021, he said. Meanwhile, work on the Pelican Island bridge is getting started.

Other officials in the crowd included Galveston County Commissioners Ken Clark, Joe Giustie and Darrell Apffel, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, plus City Councilors Hank Dugie and Larry Millican of League City, Nancy Ojeda of La Porte, Natalie Picha of Seabrook, Thomas Schoenbein of Pasadena and Ashley Graves of Nassau Bay.

Port Commissioner John Kennedy, second from left, arrives at BayTran’s State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South to find himself in the company of, from left, Harris County liaison Ron Servis, La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby and Ken Fickes with Harris County Transit Services.

BayTran gets legislative update

September 4th, 2017

State Reps. Dennis Paul, left, and Dr. Greg Bonnen are greeted by Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership President Theresa Rodriguez as they arrive at the Marriott South to speak at BayTran’s Legislative Breakfast.

By Mary Alys Cherry

BayTran members were in for a treat when they held their first breakfast meeting in a number years – a rundown of what was going on in Austin by two area legislators – Rep. Dennis Paul of District 129 and Rep. Greg Bonnen of District 24 during the break between the two sessions.

After they were introduced by Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership President Theresa Rodriguez and Treasurer Karen Coglianese, Dr. Bonnen quickly turned to the topic on everyone’s mind, transportation.

“Transportation actually came out quite well with the Legislature dedicating several billion to the Highway Fund,” during what he thought was “a productive but sometimes confusing session.” Also, “TxDOT went through the sunset review without any significant changes,” he said, later adding that while trying to pivot away from debt, the Legislature made a commitment to transportation.”

Rep. Paul gave a rundown of some of the Legislature’s work and listed some of the bills that had passed. “We made sure education was fully funded,” he told the crowd at the Hobby Marriott.

“We did away with straight ticket voting, provided protection for veterans and widows of first responders, voted to help provide vests for police, and spent an enormous amount of time working of the Houston Pension Fund, making lots of concessions all the way around.” He said they also passed a resolution asking the U.S. to move the African Command here.

When asked about help with the proposed Ike Dike or Coastal Spine, he suggested that the public write or call their representatives in Washington. “Any pressure you can put on politicians helps,” both legislators agreed.

A train ride to Dallas in the fast, fast lane

December 11th, 2014

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BayTran’s Natalie Picha welcomes, from left, Mayors Glenn Royal of Seabrook, Tom Reid of Pearland and Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point as they arrive at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership luncheon at Cullen’s Upscale Grille to hear former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels discuss the proposed high-speed rail system between Houston and Dallas.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Imagine going from Houston to Dallas by train in just under 90 minutes.

It may sound like a daydream, but former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels says, “Hang on to your hat.” It should become a reality by about 2021, if all goes well, he told the audience at the monthly Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership luncheon at Cullen’s Upscale Grille.

Eckels is president of the Texas Central Railway, the organization working on the development and operation of a private, for-profit, high-speed passenger rail system. After some four years of research, TCR believes there is an opportunity to provide consumers with a fast, safe, affordable and convenient  alternative for travel between Houston and Dallas, Eckels said.

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Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership President Barbara Koslov and Chairman Jon Branson, right, greet former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels as he arrives at Cullen’s Upscale Grille to address BayTran’s monthly luncheon on the proposed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas.

The N700-I Bullet System is a proven rail technology in operation between a number of cities in Japan.
Currently, TCR, working with the Federal Rail Association and the Texas Department of Transportation, is looking at options to maximize use of existing rights of way to build the rail line.

Based on technology used by the Japanese, the Houston-Dallas high-speed rail line will be quite simple –“one track going north and one track going south – tracks that are either grade separated or elevated. “No mixing with other trains,” he explained.

In the coming months and years, TCR will be working with property owners – some of whom might not be pleased to have the N700-1 bullet train zooming through their land.

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Kemah City Administrator Rick Beverlin, right, and Mayor Pro-tem Carl Joiner visit with Clear Lake Shores City Councilwoman Amanda Booren as they await the start of the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership monthly luncheon featuring an address on the proposed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas by former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels at Cullen’s Upscale Grille.

However, Eckels says the TCR plans a very generous eminent domain program that will offer more than the property might be appraised for since the venture is private and the developers are not restricted by the same laws the state might be bound by.

“We can buy their homes and they can continue to live in them. We can pay them today and they can continue living there for five years – until we need to tear it down.”