Metro has decided to move ahead with plans for an overpass to accommodate the new East End light rail line. That overpass would take the light rail train across the freight rail tracks on Harrisburg at Hughes Street.
The original plan called for an overpass, but after outcry from East End residents Metro agreed to build an underpass. Three years later, Metro is now raising concerns about soil contamination and what that could mean for property values and potential liability.
But despite those concerns, support for an underpass remains strong. City Councilman Robert Gallegos was one of those asking for a 30 day delay to study the issue further and to get more details on the extent of the contamination.
“The question should be asked of Metro, you stated you found this plume a few years ago but now all of a sudden you’re stating there’s this massive plume. That’s a question the community is asking.”
But some East End neighbors say they want the overpass. Crews have been working on the light rail project since 2009, and businesses along Harrisburg say they’re tired of all the traffic problems.
There’s also urgency on Metro’s part to connect the line to the Magnolia Transit Center. When the line opens this fall it will only go as far as Altic Street.
As for questions over what the overpass would look like, Metro board member Burt Ballanfant says they want to build something that’s an asset to the neighborhood. He says they won’t put up anything without input from residents.
“They will be solicited and consulted and I’m sure they will weigh in in the same fashion that they have on the issue on what’s actually designed to be there. So their role will be the most important when you get to the design.”
Metro says the cost of the overpass could be anywhere from $27 to $42 million, depending on the design. The total project could take about two-and-a-half years. Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia says the next step is to begin discussions with the city.
“The city’s committed $10 million, and we’re just really securing the time frame and the cash flow of that, we also just want to get some of the nuts and bolts of the agreements on maintenance of the road going over, all of those things. And I fully expect to have all that completed by June 30.”
The East End line is being funded with $587 million in Metro sales tax revenues.