The Houston City Council sent a strong message to Metro Wednesday after delaying $10 million in funding for the green line in the East End area.
This comes just a month after Metro officials voted to move forward with an overpass on Harrisburg.
Councilman Robert Gallegos says the community wanted a less intrusive underpass at the location.
The problem is the public transportation company says there is contaminated soil underground at the proposed site.
Back in February Metro board member Dwight Jefferson told Fox 26 it would cost at least $18 million dollars to clean up the area once the soil is disturbed.
Gallegos says he wanted Metro to hold off on the process for 30 days until a consultant could provide what he considers the true cost of the clean up.
After Metro ignored the plea last month Wednesday morning the City Council responded in kind.
The body voted to take no action on funding the project for 30 days.
That leaves Metro without the $10 million in funding promised by the city for the overpass.
Gallegos says that time gives their expert a chance to evaluate the possibility and cost of an underpass.
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“We are terribly disappointed with the Houston City Council vote to delay a decision on the anticipated $10 million funding for the East End project. These funds were earmarked years ago by Mayor Bill White.
The community and Metro have been working hard all year to come up with an excellent plan for the utilization of the funds that would complete the Harrisburg line quickly and would make it a special landmark entry into the East End.
To accommodate the community’s desire to fast-track the process, the METRO Board approved a resolution in May calling for a commitment from the City of Houston by June 30th .” Unfortunately, Councilmember Robert Gallegos has knowingly led the council to take action that will lead Metro to construct a plain, rail-only overpass,” said Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia.
Previous report on controversy:
Metro’s green light rail line is already undergoing test runs for an anticipated fall opening.
But there is one thing that stands in the way of connecting the east and west sides of the line.
The route that runs along Harrisburg is separated by Union Pacific train tracks.
Those who work and live in the area say Metro agreed to an underground solution at the Union Pacific crossing.
But now, the agency is considering an overpass.
That’s because Metro officials say the soil under the Union Pacific train tracks may be contaminated.
Lorenzo Lezscano is an east end business owner on the line.
He says, “I would prefer underpass because if you put that big bridge it’s just going to be an eyesore.”
But officials with Metro say they can’t move forward with the underground idea because of the contamination.
Board member Dwight Jeffereson says it would cost $18 million to clean up the affected area.
So what’s next? Jefferson says there is a special meeting at Metro downtown headquarters scheduled for February 18th at 2 pm to address the issue.
Jose Chaired says, “I lose business because they take too much time to build the Metro rail.”
But getting those who work and live along Harrisburg to accept an overpass may be a hard sell.
Chaires just moved his barbershop near the location where the overpass could be built.
He says it would be bad for business.
The long time business owner says if the light rail is underground cars at the street level will still be able to spot his business.
But Jefferson says if they move forward with an overpass the flow of traffic will remain at street level.