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Metro: Light Rail Growing Pains Could Pay-Off

After years of just one light rail line in Houston, three new routes are now under construction at the same time. It's a huge undertaking for Metro, but also a big sacrifice for the many small businesses along the new routes. Those construction headaches could eventually pay-off.


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With wet cement just outside the front door and potholes, mud puddles and construction signs a few feet away, Radical Eats, a vegan Mexican food joint on Fulton just north of Moody Park, is under siege. Metro’s new North line is taking shape out front.

Radical Eats sign “Would you like something to drink?”

It’s not easy to get into the tiny parking lot, but once you open the door, Beethoven spins on an old record player and Donna Berigan is ready to take your order. She says the construction has hurt business, but customers have found ways to get around it.

“Them blocking off the front of the restaurant has hindered us a little bit, but we do have a lot of customers. We’ve had several ads in our papers. The good thing is when they call, we can give them the back way, so it hasn’t messed up the parking lot, but it’s slowed business down a little bit, but we have a lot of loyal customers, so they continue to come.”

Across town at Joe Black Barber Shop along MLK, it’s a similar scene; construction barriers, rail beds and rough roads where Metro’s Southeast line is taking shape. John Brown has owned the shop since 2008. 

“The u-turn is kind of confusing to some of the customers as far as access and crossing the street, but once they get an idea of how to get here, they’re pretty much okay with it.”

Brown says he can’t say exactly how much business has dropped off. He’s taken advantage of Metro’s assistance fund that helps small businesses affected by the construction pay their bills.

“It basically slowed down traffic as far as the construction right now, but I’m just optimistic about the finishing product and see how it does when it’s finished.”

“Our goal is to do everything we can to help every business get through this and survive in good shape so they can enjoy the benefit of the system when it opens.”

Out his office window at Metro headquarters downtown, CEO George Greanius can actually see some of the work in progress. He says Metro has already handed out about $2 million to help sustain businesses along the rail lines.

“Anybody who has remodeled their kitchen knows that it’s a great idea to remodel your kitchen but it is a terrible process to go through. I think everybody admits that building these three rail lines and extending the reach of public transit in Houston is a great thing to do, but it’s a difficult challenge while you’re in the middle of the construction process.”

construction Greanius says all three new rail lines are about 40 percent complete. He says property values along the Main Street line have increased since that project was completed eight years ago.

Meanwhile, back at Radical Eats restaurant, Donna Berigan thinks good thing will happen when all the work is done.

“One of the main stops are going to be right here and it’s right by a grocery store so I think it’s going to help business a lot.”

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Jack Williams

News Anchor

Jack is back in Houston after some time away working in public radio and television in Lincoln, Nebraska. Before leaving for the Midwest, he worked in various roles at Houston Public Media from 2000-2016, including reporting, hosting and anchoring. Jack has also worked in commercial news radio in Houston, Austin...

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