HOUSTON (FOX 26) - At a time when a hurricane hammered City of Houston is hard pressed for every public nickel it can scrape together, leaders of the Uptown Authority are seeking an additional $31 million tax dollars to complete a deeply unpopular dedicated bus lane project along Post Oak through the heart of the high dollar Galleria district.
"We've already committed to spending $200 million on this boondoggle and now apparently we need another $30 million," said columnist and former mayoral candidate Bill King.
King calls the Uptown project "crony capitalism" and labels the prospect of additional funding ridiculous considering the City quite nearly raised property taxes just to pick up storm debris.
"I think the real irony is we are taking property taxes away from neighborhoods that really need the help and especially need the help now and we are essentially subsidizing the most expensive real estate in Houston," said King.
The project has infuriated Uptown residents like Steve Lipworth who says ongoing construction has caused cut-through traffic to spill over into adjacent neighborhoods as drivers avoid ugly congestion. Lipworth calls the projected pay-off of Galleria bound bus passengers a pipe-dream.
"People will not get out of the cars in the heat of summer or the cold of winter or anytime to walk across those roads and stand in the heat waiting for a bus to take them to another place," said Lipworth who has lived and worked in numerous large cities across the globe.
Uptown, which controls the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, sent Fox 26 the following statement: "The Uptown BRT Project is on budget. The project is fully funded. The request before the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is an effort to capture additional federal funding for the City’s utility costs associated with the project."
But King says every taxpayer penny poured into the Uptown project shortchanges much more critical priorities.
"For what you are spending on this project we could have built Project Braes. Now, is it more important to keep Meyerland from flooding or to deal with traffic in Galleria, supposedly?" said King.