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Mayor Hosts meeting in East End

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The City of Houston, METRO, and Union Pacific are negotiating final details for an important project. If you live, work, or play in Houston's East End, this will interest you.

Along Harrisburg Blvd, where the street crosses Union Pacific's East Belt freight rail subdivision, METRO must either take the new East End light rail line over or under the freight rail line. For three years, East End neighbors and businesses have fought to have an underpass, not just for the new rail service, but for the whole street.

On Wednesday night, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Council Members Gonzalez, Rodriguez, and Noriega, and METRO CEO George Greanias, will host a public meeting to update the community on funding and options for the long-sought Harrisburg underpass. To hear what's happening and what's left to do, be there at 7:00 pm.

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freightrailmini.jpgEast End community meeting to consider Harrisburg grade separation Wednesday Jun 15

Union Pacific's East Belt rail subdivision is one of the busiest in the city, carrying more than 30 freight trains a day through Houston's East End. For years, the crossing at Harrisburg has created delays and headaches for motorists and trains alike. The City of Houston first targeted this crossing for grade separation in 1953. <a style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=cbps7zbab&et=1106007677468&s=2229&e=001nfp9v86vp9ahwS70rc9_KCaOpNS2526IdJN9S3i6B_IYaR0K1VpGELWLDOANkyo1iH7UJ3CUkXlTKF4gaZZ2y8ah_Otu2fNmY2wJaKIHhP1Uo7YWSGv_IXV5abxwup-l-mGWnLBmxGFei59N4wWjUA==" shape="rect" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Harris County recommended an underpass at this location in 2004. The Gulf Coast Rail District identified this crossing as a priority in 2009.

METRO is currently constructing the East End light rail line down Harrisburg. They must either go under or over the freight rail line, which poses a timely opportunity to finally grade separate the road and the freight line as well. The remaining questions are whether to construct an underpass or an overpass, how much it will cost, and who will fund the improvements.

For more than three years, East End business and neighborhood leaders have fought for an underpass. An underpass will be less obtrusive, require less right-of-way, and project less noise than an overpass, minimizing impacts to Harrisburg businesses. It will also will provide a neighborhood-friendly crossing that's accessible to bicycles and pedestrians. They recognize that the success of METRO's rail transit investment depends on creating pedestrian-friendly development around stations, and that an overpass is likely to stymie that process. The underpass proposal has widespread support from both businesses and residents in the East End, including:

  • Greater Eastwood Super Neighborhood (SN 64 & 88), Eastwood Civic Association, Houston Country Club Civic Association, Magnolia Pineview Civic Club, East Lawndale Civic Association, and Idylwood Civic Club
  • East End Chamber of Commerce, East End Management District, Harrisburg Merchants Association, and Historic Harrisburg

In 2010, the City of Houston commissioned a study to determine the cost differential between two overpass options and an underpass. The study estimates that an underpass will cost $43.4 million, or $13.4 million more than a vehicle overpass. You can review the draft executive summary (4.7 mb pdf) which explains the options but does not include final cost estimates. The City should release the final Harrisburg Grade Separation report this week. City leaders have identified some of the funds needed for the underpass, but a significant gap remains. There's potential to defer other City capital projects to make up the difference, and also for Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman and Union Pacific to help close the gap.

Community meeting Wednesday!

On Wednesday night, Mayor Parker, Council Members Gonzalez, Rodriguez, and Noriega, and METRO CEO George Greanias will host a community meeting about the grade separation. You're invited hear an update on the state of funding for the project, and have the opportunity to express whether other projects in the City's capital improvement program (CIP) for the area should be deferred to help the underpass move forward.

What: Harrisburg grade separation update meeting

When: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Where: Ripley House, 4410 Navigation Blvd, Houston, 77011 (map)

About the Citizens' Transportation Coalition (CTC)

CTC is an all-volunteer transportation advocacy organization. We envision transportation solutions that improve quality of life. We are committed to engaging Houstonians in the planning of transportation projects that affect our neighborhoods. CTC is a 501©(3) nonprofit and memberships and contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

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