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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Metro light rail line to be built along UH

A second Metro light rail line will run adjacent to the UH campus on Scott Street and Elgin Street, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors decided Thursday.

The University Line’s route will run from the Hillcroft Transit Center on Westpark Drive to the Eastwood Transit Center on the Gulf Freeway to provide east-west transportation in Houston.

"University of Houston students, faculty and leadership can trust that Metro has been and will continue to work with all its stakeholders every step of the way," Sandra Salazar, Metro communications supervisor, said.

Metro staff said they conducted hundreds of meetings with stakeholders along the University Line over the past year that contributed to Thursday’s decision.

Capital and operational costs, projected ridership and public opinion were taken into account in choosing the route, Salazar said.

The line will be approximately 10 miles long and will share a stretch of Scott with the Southeast Corridor light rail, according to Metro’s Web site.

The Southeast Corridor’s route, which will run adjacent to the University on Scott and Wheeler Avenue, was approved by the board in September 2006.

Metro staff said the details of how to allow both routes to share the street finalized during the design process and included in a Final Environmental Impact Statement expected to be released next summer.

Construction on the line is set to begin in early 2009 and completed in 2012, Metro staff said, but timelines for construction near the University have not been determined.

The University Line received its name from the four institutions of higher learning it will run near: UH, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College and the University of St. Thomas, Metro staff said.

"Since the University Line will offer a one-seat trip to the Galleria area, we expect the many retail centers in that area to be popular destinations on the University Line," Salazar said. "Business and worship centers in and around Greenway Plaza are likely to attract many riders as well."

The board also decided Thursday to construct the lines as light rail, changing their previous plans to build bus rapid transit systems that would later be converted to light rail.

The board cited cost reduction and improved chances of receiving federal money for the project as reasons for nixing the BRTs, train-like buses that run along a track, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Metro expects half of the $2 billion cost for the five proposed light rail corridors to come from the Federal Transit Administration, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Metro must complete an Environmental Impact Statement and go through a re-application process, but funds could be awarded as early as next summer.

The University Line has been built to Houston’s projected population increase of 2 million people over the next 20 years.

According to a presentation heard by the Metro board Thursday, in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement published in August, 68 percent of 678 responses were for the line while 32 percent were against. Top concerns raised by respondents included traffic, property-related issues, trees, safety, flooding and noise.

Metro outlined plans to mitigate the line’s impact by installing intersection signals to ease traffic flow, hiring an arborist to oversee tree transplantation, evaluating flooding and installing noise insulation on line structures.

English junior Thien Ho said the light rail lines will be a positive addition to the city and that he will use them.

"I’ve used a tram in a big city before, and being able to get around a big city without having to drive is great," he said.

Ho recently lived in Seoul, Korea for six months and said their tram system made his stay easier and more enjoyable.

Although many people will resist the idea at first, he said, the lines will be convenient and helpful.

Biology junior Robert Brown, however, said the light rails will likely be more of a hassle than a help.

"Not a lot of people use public transportation in the city," he said. "Houston’s so spread out – a mass transit system may not be the best option."

Brown said the light rails will likely disrupt traffic and negatively impact residential areas and increase accidents.

"I’m just not sure it’s the best solution," he said.

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