UH and Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County have been would-be neighbors for much of last spring and this summer as the Southwest rain line has been in the works, but this relationship may not be as sound as it once seemed.
The West University Examiner reported last Thursday that Executive Director of Media Relations Richard Bonnin said “UH did ask Metro to move the lines off campus.”
The corner of Scott and Wheeler, property of the University, would be covered with the track and platform; 4.48 acres of land would need to be on current UH property, METRO said. The University has thus far refused to sell this land to METRO.
Bonnin declined to comment further.
“It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details while the negotiations are taking place,” Bonnin said. “As a state agency, METRO has the right to take a large amount of land away from the University of Houston for its light rail expansion project.”
However, Bonnin did express some dissatisfaction with the probable acquisition of University land.
“Needless to say, this will have a significant impact on the University. However, the chancellor’s number one principle is that while METRO has the right to take the land, UH has the right to be made whole,” Bonnin said.
According to a statement published by the West University Examiner, METRO believes that if a deal is not reached soon, construction delays for the much anticipated and needed light rail may ensue.
“In the past, I have had students who could not attend class because their cars had broken down and they were far from bus stops,” said University Professor Irving Rothman in an email. “For the University of Houston to withhold the sale of minor parcels of land is shortsighted when one considers the greater advantages of Metro rail travel.”
Studies are not the only aspects Rothman said will suffer from what he sees as unwillingness by UH to sell the land.
“Students living in the residence halls and without cars or personal transportation would find it much easier to attend operas, plays, sports events. or popular music sites in downtown Houston not readily accessible to them today,” Rothman said. “Some currently feel land–locked without ready access to entertainment sites, restaurants, or clothing stores off campus.”