Starting this fall, residents of the East End will be able to start using the new light rail line along Harrisburg. They can catch the train downtown and take it as far as Altic Street. But there’s another section of the East End line that’s also been built. That’s between 67th Street and the Magnolia Transit Center, which is a couple of blocks past Wayside.
The two sections aren’t connected right now because of this:
Metro has to find a way to get the light rail trains across the busy Union Pacific freight tracks at Hughes Street. The original plan was to build an underpass but concerns have now arisen over contaminated soil. So Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia says they’ll have to go with something else.
“Once we discovered the design could cause some of the contamination to migrate, as well as when we saw the issue was a little more challenging that originally anticipated, that’s when we began to say we need to rethink this decision.”
KUHF Transportation Reporter Gail Delaughter visits a segment of Metro’s new East End light rail line that won’t be opening this fall.
Metro says it’s committed to taking the line all the way to the transit center, and to make that happen, it’s now looking at plans for an overpass over the freight rail tracks that would carry both the light rail train and vehicles.
It also has to sell the idea to residents and businesses who were hoping not to have a high-rise structure that would hamper access and potentially slice the neighborhood in two.
A design hasn’t been put on paper yet, but Garcia thinks they can come up with something that works for everyone.
“What I’ve been suggesting to the community is to do an overpass that has one lane going in each direction while at the same time keeping at-grade or street, one lane going in each direction.”
So what does the East End community think of Metro’s plan?
“I think everyone would like to see the details of what Metro’s thinking.”
That’s Diane Schenke with the East End Management District. She says businesses like the idea of street-level access but they’re still worried.
“What I hear a lot of questions about here in the neighborhood is making the overpass something that is not a visual blight on the neighborhood.”
And there’s the issue of funding. $20 million in city money has been allocated for the underpass, but can those funds be used for an overpass?
Gilbert Garcia says he feels confident Metro can come up with money for the project, but he adds their big concern right now is timing. Metro is hoping to have the entire East End line open in the next two years.