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University Line FEIS filed

Again via Swamplot, here’s another Examiner story about the current state of light rail construction, in this case the University line.

The light rail alignment for Metro’s University route will require the acquisition of about 23 acres of land, much of it along Richmond Avenue, according to the final environmental impact study on the project.

“Potential acquisitions and displacement are expected at signalized intersections and at some transit stations,” the report said. “Every transit station located on the street will have a traffic signal. Additional right of way will be needed to accommodate left-turn lanes at key signalized intersections.”

The document shows the project will have an impact on 212 parcels of land, and 168 relocations of businesses and residences will be required.

You can see all of the FEIS documents here. This sounds like a lot, and rather predictably the story has inspired a ton of fear and loathing in the Swamplot comments. I figured it would be useful to ask someone who knows more about these things than I do, so I did. The following is from Christof Spieler:

The 23 acres (22.8, actually) is for the entire line. That includes some large but fairly inconsequential parcels: a TxDOT detention pond at Westpark Transit Center that METRO plans to build light rails storage tracks above while keeping the pond in service, empty land next to a Centerpoint substation at Newcastle and Westpark that’s intended for a park-and-ride lot, a strip of Robertson Stadium parking lot, and the Eastwood Transit Center, which, even though it’s already a METRO transit facility, is listed as property to be acquired (I’m assuming the land may be owned by TxDOT.)

The takings in the Weslayan to Main Street segment (Richmond Ave., Greenway Plaza, and the bridge over 59) are 6.3 acres. About 1.5 acres of that is a strip center on the south side of 59 opposite Cummins; METRO now shows acquiring the whole building and parking lot, not just the strip they need for the bridge.

Other changes from the DEIS (July 2007):

  • METRO has also added three parcels that they need for the boxes that supply power to the trains.
  • The Greenway stations has moved to Edloe, requiring some very thin strips of land (landscaping in from of office buildings).
  • The Dunlavy station was moved to east of Mandell (and renamed Menil Station) at the request of the Menil Foundation. That requires a strip of Menil-owned land on the north side of Richmond, plus some buildings on the northwest corner of Richmond/Mandell.

The rest of the takings are where the DEIS showed them, though sometimes they’ve gotten a bit bigger:

  • Strips of land between Kirby and Shepherd, where Richmond is at its narrowest. The only building that seems to be affected is the front edge of the VW dealership.
  • Strips around the Shepherd station. This affects some buildings on the south side of the street (plus one building on the north side, where a substation would go.)
  • Really small strips (2 to 4 feet, I think) around Woodhead and Dunlavy
  • Some significant strips and a full parcel at the Montrose station. This takes out part of the bank parking lot, businesses and an apartment building on the south side of Richmond between Graustark and Montrose, and several businesses on the south side of Richmond between Montrose and Stanford.
  • Shipley’s Donuts and a vacant lot at Wheeler.

This is obviously not painless. But it’s not a wholescale widening, either. Something like 2/3 of properties are completely unaffected and most of the properties that are affected lose only 2 or 4 feet.

Christof also helpfully included this map to show where property would be affected. I also got some feedback from Jay Crossley, who provided links and excerpts from the DEIS for the US 290 expansion and the Katy Freeway expansion to serve as points of comparison. From the former:

All of the proposed US 290, Hempstead Road, and IH 610 build alternatives would require residential, business, public facilities, utilities, and other relocations. Acquisition of ROW along US 290 and Hempstead Road would displace between 29 and 96 single-family residences, and between 98 and 206 multi-family residential units, respectively, depending on the alternative selected.

[...]

All US 290 alternatives would require relocations of two churches (St. Peter’s Anglican and St. Aidan’s Episcopal), a pipeline transfer facility, an area with Exxon Mobil pipeline equipment, and a United States Army Reserve Center. Hempstead Road Alternatives HR-A, HR-B, HR-C and HR-D would displace the Iglesia Pentecostes Mission Church. Alternatives HR-C and HR-E would require the relocation of the Christ Family Church.”

And from the latter:

“The Preferred Alignment Alternative would result in the displacement of approximately 871 businesses, 72 single-family units, 122 units in multi-family housing facilities, and two non-profit organization facilities.”

Obviously, these are bigger projects, and they’re not really comparable because of that. I include these to note that the kind of person who moans about what Metro is doing never seems to make much of a fuss about TxDOT.

Finally, there will still be opportunities to engage with Metro about what’s going on with the planning and construction. The following was sent to me from the University of Houston:

How will METRO’s new light rail lines along Scott and Wheeler affect you? What’s the good news? What’s the bad news?

METRO will detail its plans for the Southeast Line and the University Line in an information sharing session sponsored jointly by the Faculty Senate, Staff Council, and the Student Government Association.

Please come – Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 10 AM, Elizabeth Rockwell Pavilion, 2nd floor of M.D. Anderson Library.

As UH is a public university, this meeting is open to the public as well.

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2 Comments

  1. [...] but in either event, we’re a ways away from this particular go/no-go decision. The FEIS was filed in January, two and a half years after the draft EIS. These things don’t move very [...]

  2. [...] quite a large assumption for this $4.6 billion project that involves taking a lot of property that hasn’t been addressed. One wonders where all those self-appointed Metro watchdogs are [...]

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