Transit consultants Tuesday unveiled visions of a commuter rail line between Galveston and Houston that could speed past traffic clogs, perhaps as soon as 2012.

The commuter rail proposal was one of several alternatives outlined in a media briefing on the Galveston-Houston Mobility Corridor Alternative Analysis, held Tuesday afternoon in Houston.

The alternatives will undergo public scrutiny in a series of nine open house meetings and also will be evaluated by government entities and agencies.

La Marque Mayor Geraldine Sam doesn’t need convincing. The commuter rail would bring new life to the city she’s lived in all her 57 years, she said.

“It would be like a new birth, adding a lot of new things — new businesses, new homes,” she said after the media briefing. “People could live in our area and ride the rail to work.

“It would be a 20- to 30-minute ride to Houston, instead of stuck in traffic for two to three hours,” she said. “For me to get here today, it was bumper to bumper.”

The Interstate 45 corridor is one of the most congested routes in the region, Barry Goodman, president of Goodman Corp., a Houston consulting firm, said.

“We have major mobility problems that require comprehensive solutions, and that’s what this process is about,” he said.

The process involves outlining alternatives to the public, cities, counties and agencies along the corridor, then coming to a consensus before going hat in hand to Washington for federal funding.

“We need to look at the most cost-effective solution in this corridor,” Goodman said.

“We believe a commuter rail works well, but we need to now prove our case.”

The alternatives presented included:

  • Bus Rapid Transit would extend an HOV lane and add two barrier-separated Bus Rapid Transit lanes south to Galveston to create an exclusive Bus Rapid Transit two-way commuter service between downtown Houston and Galveston, serving the 11 cities in between. Buses would average 50 to 60 mph.
  • Express Bus would optimize and expand the existing park-and-ride bus service along the I-45 corridor. The commuter bus service would operate every 10 minutes during peak periods. This is the cheapest alternative.
  • Commuter Rail would provide service along the Galveston, Houston & Henderson rail line, which runs parallel with I-45 and state Highway 3. The Commuter Rail Line would have exclusive use of the rail alignment for three hours in the peak morning, three hours in the peak afternoon periods and on weekends. Speeds would be in excess of 70 mph.

“What I’m most excited about with commuter rail is that it also provides for evacuation from Galveston,” Carl Sharpe, vice president of planning and urban design for the Goodman Corp., said.

“This is not just to get people to work more conveniently and comfortably.”

If a consensus is reached for a commuter rail project, and if federal funds are obtained, some phases of the rail line could be in place as early as 2012, and probably not later than 2015, Sharpe said. He has lived in Houston 30 years now but remembers his graduate school days in Philadelphia when he commuted by rail.

“It was great,” he said.

At A Glance

The first phase of public meetings will be offered as open houses, with booths outlining each alternative staffed by experts to answer questions. The events will be two hours in length, but will be come-and-go programs.

Dates and locations are:

  • Tuesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Galveston Island Convention Center, Ballroom A, 5600 Seawall Blvd., in Galveston
  • Sept. 23, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center, near state Highway 3 at 400 W. Walker St., in League City
  • Sept. 24, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Ripley House Neighborhood Center, Houston’s east end, 4410 Navigation St., in Houston

Officials hope a consensus will be built in the next nine to 10 months, as they receive and analyze public comments from the meetings. Comments also can be made at info(at)galvestonrailstudy.com. The project Web site will be online by mid-September at www.galvestonrailstudy.com