I’m not very happy with this.
A City Council delay in contributing funds for a contentious East End overpass will likely lead Metro back to build a span only for its light rail line and not drivers, and without some of the attributes transit officials and some nearby residents said they wanted.
The delay in receiving $10 million from the city could have a detrimental effect on whatever is built, as Metro presses ahead. Final agreement between the city and Metro regarding the money Houston committed to an underpass or overpass missed a Monday deadline set by Metro, sparking another spat between transit and city officials.
At the same time Wednesday that City Council members were delaying their commitment, Metro’s board was approving a design contract for the overpass. Transit officials are also planning the first public meeting about the overpass design on Tuesday.
The goal was to develop an overpass with traffic lanes, and add features like murals and amenities to make the overpass more palatable, not just a concrete overpass for the light rail line. All of that is now moot, as the city delays and Metro moves ahead, Metro chairman Gilbert Garcia said.
When Metro moved forward, the decision angered Houston Councilman Robert Gallegos, who asked last week for a delay in handing $10 million over to Metro for the project.
That delay stretched from one week to two because of the upcoming July 4 holiday, and then to 30 days at the suggestion of Mayor Annise Parker, who said she was just hearing about some of Gallegos’ concerns.
Gallegos said he wants to research the level of contamination, whether it should be cleaned up and what can be designed that will protect the community.
“It is not about pushing for an underpass at this point,” Gallegos’ chief of staff, Danial Santamaria, said. “It is concern about the contaminants.”
Metro officially approved the overpass plan in late May. I understand why they want to move forward already, but it’s not clear to me why a relatively small amount of money like that $10 million should have such a large effect on the final design. Surely there must be some way that sum can be covered even if the city backs out of the original agreement, which was made with the understanding that Metro would build an underpass. Given that the underpass option is off the table at this point, I feel strongly that every effort should be made to make the overpass as palatable to the East End residents as possible. Let’s not mess this up over a small sum of money.