USA: Houston's $1·3bn Metro Solutions expansion programme took a significant step forward on June 30 with the start of construction along the East End Corridor, one of five planned extensions to the existing single-route light rail network.

The 6·4 km East End Corridor will run from Magnolia Transit Center to Main Street in the city centre, where an interchange will be provided with the existing Red Line.

Four further extensions to the network are proposed. The Federal Transit Administration has ruled that the North Line project is eligible to apply for federal funding. The 8·5 km route would diverge from the Red Line at the University of Houston campus to serve the Northline shopping centre. Harris County MTA hopes to complete the project by 2012, and is planning a further extension to Bush Inter- continental Airport.

Back in 2005, Harris County MTA had decided that all but one of the five corridors would be built as bus rapid transit, but the FTA's decision to consider a 'rail bias' when assessing funding applications saw that decision reversed last year (RG 12.07 p756).