METRO to Move Forward with Northline Expansion

Funding for the expansion of rapid mass transit in the north corridor is an item in the president's FY08 budget which means METRO can move forward with construction of the Northline Project. But as Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, not everyone is excited about the expansion of rapid transit.

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Mario Umansor is standing outside the Doneraki Restaurant on Fulton Street, holding a sign protesting bus rapid transit. He and about two dozen others are here representing the SAVE NORTHSIDE COALITION. They're responding to plans by METRO to construct rapid transit lanes through their community.

"They're saying that they want to improve public transportation, but I see nothing to improve. The buses that we have right now, most of the time they're empty. Why would they want to change it?"

METRO's planned five-mile line will run from downtown to Northline Mall -- a route the protesters say will affect as many as 250 businesses and residences in their community. Umansor has gathered the group inside Doneraki, where he's rallying the protest.

"I would like to tell METRO that they are not welcome over here with their project. They're not welcome and we gonna fight all the way to the end."

"It's totally understandable that there would be a lot of fear. And fear is a result of not having all of the information."

That's Sandra Salazar, METRO's spokesperson. She says METRO has no plans to take over the neighborhood or even buy out that many properties. The list of 250 land parcels is the total number of places that could potentially be affected by construction of the North Line.

"We're really looking at 33 whole acquisitions and 44 partial acquisitions."

Whole acquisitions are where METRO plans to buy the entire piece of land, although Salazar says that doesn't necessarily mean the buildings on the land will have to be razed. Partial acquisitions allow METRO to purchase up to ten feet of the property, usually encompassing the curb and sidewalk. Salazar says METRO is already in contact with the property owners who will be affected. But Umansor isn't convinced.

"Can I trust them, when they have lied to us so many times? I can't. I can't trust them no more."

The Federal Transportation Administration has approved the North Line Rapid Transit project and it's environmental and community impact. Construction begins this summer and will be completed in 2011. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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