Light rail on track
Metro detailed its plans for the Southeast Light Rail Line and the University Light Rail Line in an information sharing session Wednesday at the Rockwell Pavilion inside the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library.
The session was sponsored by the UH Faculty Senate, Staff Council and the Student Government Association.
The Southeast Line will follow Scott Street and will have 10 stations, including stops near UH at Elgin Street, Cleburne and Wheeler/Martin Luther King Boulevard.
The University Line will roughly follow Richmond Avenue and Wheeler and will have 19 stations.
Construction projects have been divided into four phases.
The first phase includes redirecting or removing utility lines that run underground along the roads, with completion of this project expected in spring of 2011. During the second phase, streets will be widened on both sides.
The third phase calls for traffic to be diverted to the outer lanes so work can begin in the middle, where the new light rail will run.
“We’re using a very different construction method this time,” said Kimberly Williams, Metro’s associate vice president of corporate programs.
“Now, construction is construction. I’m not going to say that it’s not going to be inconvenient.”
The fourth and final phase will test these systems and finalize everything in preparation of the opening of the rail lines.
Metro officials said precautions have been taken to minimize the impact the construction will have on traffic.
Metro officials also said they will be working to maintain communication with the communities they will work in to assure they address all possible concerns.
The stations will be located around the perimeter of the campus, instead of near areas such as the University Center, where there is a high student density. This reduces the functionality of the light rail lines to students.
The Southeast Line will be traveling through an already high-traffic area, possibly co-opting parking areas.
The stations on Wheeler will not be near any existing campus entrances. Entrances on Scott and Wheeler will be partially blocked by the new lines.
The Southeast Line could also partially cut off parking, the UHPD station and the University Child Care Center.
The lines could also present some problems for students with disabilities who live on campus. Many will have to cross the lines to reach on-campus apartments.
Williams said Metro is taking all of these issues into consideration as it continues to address the University’s concerns.
“We do have these issues on the table, we are looking at them and evaluating them. We want to work very closely with the university to address these,” Williams said.
Several members of UH at the information session expressed concern about construction blocking traffic and hindering students and staff from getting to class or work.
Williams said Metro has learned much from its Main Street Line, and the new phased construction plan will help traffic continue in a similar fashion as before.
“There will be times when it will be inconvenient,” Williams said. “(But there’s) no progress without some pain.”
Metro official John Walsh said pedestrians will be able to cross with signaled crosswalks to insure their safety to and from the light rail lines.
“Construction was contracted to maintain pedestrian crossing as well as traffic,” Walsh said.