Metro: University Corridor Route Could Be "Blended"

Metro says it could end up using a "blended option" approach to building a new light rail line between the University of Houston and the Hillcroft transit center on the city's southwest side. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the so-called "University Corridor" could utilize right-of-way along both Richmond Avenue and Westpark as it makes its way west.

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The 10-mile corridor would link U of H, Texas Southern, Houston Community College and the University of St. Thomas with Greenway Plaza and the Galleria area. Metro Chairman David Wolff says the corridor will likely have to use Richmond west of Main Street for at least a few miles before the proposed route hits Greenway Plaza and could head south to Westpark.

"If we go to Westpark at Greenway Plaza, two-thirds of this alignment will be on Westpark west of Main Street. We think that we have shown sensitivity to people who said we'd like you to put this on Westpark as much as possible, and if we go down through Greenway Plaza, in fact twice as much of this line will be on Westpark as is on Richmond."

Houston voters approved light rail in a referendum in 2003 when the corridor was known as the Westpark line. Metro officials have since revised that plan to include more of Richmond Avenue, which doesn't make residents and business owners like Daphne Scarbrough very happy.

"It's more of the same. We've had hours and hours and hours of meetings and it's just nothing new."

Scarbrough owns The Brass Maiden on Richmond and says light rail will cause massive traffic jams and ruin the neighborhood.

"I'm not happy with it on any part of Richmond Avenue, not any part of Richmond. Houston needs increased mobility, not decreased. There is not any way they have room to put two lanes of rail in the center and have two lanes of traffic on either side through a great portion of that."

But Metro officials say they do have room and contend the blended plan would cause minimal disruption to homes and businesses on Richmond. Metro President Frank Wilson says the transit agency is doing what it can to create a viable rail corridor that will fit in with the overall light rail plan.

"So far, the criteria we were given, we are able to track very closely, in other words, we can meet all those criteria, minimal property takings, no loss of traffic lanes, no loss of left turns, maintaining access during construction. We think this is a good report card on the work so far. Now we take it public and get the community's reaction to the real factual information, which is the first time they'll have had a chance to see it."

Two Metro information open houses on the corridor are set for July 24th and 25th.

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