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Light Rail Jumps Major Hurdle

Metro’s light rail system has passed another major hurdle. The government has finished studying the impact the new University line would have on the surrounding area… and has given Metro the green light to proceed to the next phase. Bill Stamps has more.



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The University rail line will run east west starting near the University of Houston and running out past the Galleria out to Hillcroft. It’s still years away from being built but it’s a lot closer to becoming a reality today now that the environmental impact study is done. The government didn’t decide the construction of the line would destroy the habitat of a dying species or cause undue harm to the environment. So now Metro can move on to what it calls the detailed design phase. Acting CEO George Greanias explains.

Deciding the exact width of lanes for example. If we’re going to put the track in the middle of Richmond in certain sections of the project then exactly how wide can or should the lanes be for the cars that will be sharing the same roadway. Where exactly will the train cross over from Richmond avenue across the southwest freeway to the westpark corridor.

Greanias says there’s a lot of work to do in the design phase in order to make sure they get things right.

We have to make sure that we build a system that is compatible with the roadways that are already there. And of course we have to continue to work with the community, people who are affected by the project to make sure that we address their concerns and issues as well.

Although Metro calls this good news, there are always skeptics… not everyone believes light rail is the answer to Houston’s traffic congestion. There are those who say Americans are simply too attached to their automobiles. Especially in cities that are spread out like Houston. But Greanias has this answer to those skeptics.

I would suggest that people who have decided that its not going to work to go look to where it works. And they don’t have to go any farther than main street here in Houston. The fact is that the train that runs from Fannin south out near Reliant park up to the University of Houston Downtown, even though its only seven and a half miles of track, has proven to be a very effective system.

He says many people who used to commute by car have switched to the rail line.

Houston data says that people in Houston are perfectly ready and willing to accept rail. Forty three percent of the folks that are on that train were not using public transit before the rain came into existence. I believe that as more of the rail program gets built, the argument that people in Houston won’t use it will get less true.

So it’s on to the design phase of the University line… just when might it be construction begin? Greanias says it’s too soon to give a date.

Bill Stamps, KUHF News.