When the new East End light rail line opens this fall it won’t go all the way to its original destination, the Magnolia Transit Center.
Metro wanted to build an overpass when the line was first planned, to get the train over the freight rail tracks on Harrisburg at Hughes Street. But after public outcry it decided to go with an underpass.
Then concerns arose over contaminated soil, so Metro went back to its plan for an overpass. That decision prompted months of debate by people on both sides of the issue.
After several public meetings, Metro’s board decided to begin the design process for the overpass, and it’s now selected a firm to do that work.
Metro board member Burt Ballanfant hopes neighbors will now come together with a vision as to how the overpass will take shape.
“This was an issue in which people were deeply invested, and I think one of the commitments we made to all of the public, those who wanted an underpass and those who wanted an overpass, would be that the community would be involved in the design.”
The firm selected to do the design is Omega Engineers. Metro will now negotiate a contract with the firm, not to exceed $4 million.
As part of the design process, Metro chairman Gilbert Garcia says neighbors will have the chance to look at some of the options and give their input.
“We will have in there different designs spread out in a room and Metro personnel at these different stations to take comments all along the way. It will be an open house format, rather than a meeting format, and that way people will be a little more comfortable to give their feedback, pro or con.”
Unlike the two other new lines that are funded with federal dollars, the East End line is being paid for with Metro sales tax revenues.
In an earlier presentation, Metro officials said that the cost of the overpass could be anywhere from $27 to $42 million.
The City of Houston had earlier agreed to pitch in $10 million for the grade separation, but City Council has now put that appropriation on hold.
City Councilman Robert Gallegos disputes Metro’s claims about potential liability due to the contaminated soil. He says the agency acted in haste in approving the overpass project.
“A letter was provided by City Attorney Feldman to the Metro board disputing the liability concerns. Councilman Gonzales and I asked the Metro board to delay their vote for an overpass for 30 days.”
Now that the project is moving forward, Metro is planning a public meeting for next Tuesday.
It’s at 6:00 PM at Metro’s Service and Inspection Facility at 5880 Texas Street.