Houstonians in the East End are finally getting to see Metro’s plans for an overpass for the new light rail line. People got to look at the plans at an open house at Metro’s Service and Inspection Facility.
The overpass would take the light rail trains, and possibly vehicles, over the freight rail crossing on Harrisburg at Hughes Street.
What people saw at the meeting wasn’t a complete design for the overpass, but conceptual models showing what could be done with the structure. It included things like landscaping and lighting and places for people to gather under the overpass.
The models are being unveiled after Metro changed its plans for the Hughes Street crossing.
The neighborhood had requested that Metro build an underpass, but the agency now says it can’t do that because of concerns over soil contamination.
Metro is now moving ahead with the overpass plan but that project could take at least a couple of years. So when the line opens this fall there will be two sections that won’t connect, and that means the light rail trains won’t be able to travel the remaining few blocks to the Magnolia Transit Center.
East End resident Diane Barber is concerned over those missteps in the planning process.
“But I’m hopeful that the community can come together and some innovative solutions can be brought to bear to continue it, because it needs to go the entire length of the line or it won’t service the community like it should.”
Metro says it’s prepared to move quickly, but right now there’s a sticking point over funding.
The city of Houston agreed to contribute $10 million, but city council has delayed that funding. East End council members disputed Metro’s claims about potential liability because of ground contamination.
Appearing on Houston Matters, Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia says if they don’t get that contribution from the city, they may have to go with earlier plans for a rail-only bridge that doesn’t have lanes for vehicular traffic.
“We have already stopped all the design work, making the enhancements and the cars going over as well. We are dusting off the old plans. We’re going to use our own internal engineering staff to do as much as we can, but very soon, we’re soon going to have to spend money. And once we start spending money down that route there will be no turning back.”
Meanwhile back at Metro’s open house, East End neighbor Rosa Guzman says she’s just anxious for the line to be finished.
“It’s a little frustrating because this is your tax dollars working for you to some extent, and bond money that’s been issued for the community, but you have to deal with it because it is revitalization.”
The East End line is funded with Metro sales tax money, as opposed to the new Southeast line which is paid for with federal dollars.