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A lesser overpass

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.

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6 Comments

  1. Julian Deleon says:

    Why is Gilbert Garcia gunning for Houston City Council Members for the tag? I believe it was Mayor Parker who recommended the 30 day delay?!?! We will see if Gilbert Garcia has the backbone to go after Mayor Parker.

    Gilbert Garcia has no credibility. Gilbert Garcia is hot-headed, emotional and has been downright nasty to the Community over this issue. Gilbert Garcia is unfit to serve on the METRO board — much less as Chairman.

    If Gilbert Garcia makes the decision to half Arse the Overpass, he owns HIS decision and has nothing to do with any member of Houston City Council. It is evident, Gilbert Garcia let his emotions get the best of him — and he is not sophisticated enough to know he was forced to show his hand and implicate Mayor Parker in the process!

  2. Josefina Rodriguez says:

    CM Gallegos is looking out for his constituents. He knows METRO has not dealt in good faith with the East End community, conveniently waiting until January of this year to tell the East End that they could not do the underpass because of contamination. They knew about the contamination since 2009. They spent 8.6 million dollars of our tax money on designing the underpass. The “monster” bridge they are now proposing does nothing to improve the quality of life of our residents, that is why CM Gallegos is standing up to them. They will leave the most vulnerable of our community to cross the railroad crossing at grade, including those in wheelchairs. We lose our quiet zones and in the end we get left with the contamination so East End residents can either live with it or take care of it ourselves. Shame on METRO and the City!

  3. Bob S. says:

    I’m impressed with Robert Gallegos. He is a great guy, really cares about our neighborhood and he is doing a great job! METRO should know the east end has Carol Alvarado, Sylvia Garcia and Robert Gallegos. They all work very well together and everyone knows any three of them (if not the 3 of them together) will stand up to anyone who messes with our neighborhood. Carol, Sylvia and Robert are some of the best elected officials the east end has seen in a while and they don’t play around when it comes the the Community.

    Shame on METRO for giving is a jacked up Overpass!

  4. Don says:

    METRO could stand to change its Board of Directors. There has been too many issues under its current leadership.

  5. Eastender says:

    City Council only voted to postpone approving the funds to METRO to provide the community time to have independent experts review the contamination data provided by METRO.

    How can the METRO chairman unilaterally decide to build a rail only overpass without community input and METRO board approval?

    METRO board chairman seems to be moving forward to finish the rail line as quickly and cheaply as possible at the expense of the potential health, safety and well being of the East End men, women and children.

    The METRO board chairman is indicating he does not need the City’s money to do it and will build the cheapest overpass in the East End.

    If the METRO board chairman is proceeding with a rail only overpass because of the City Councils’ postponement of a vote on providing METRO $10 million dollars, then if METRO does build a rail only overpass with its own money, does METRO really need the City money?

    Thank you CM Gallegos and CM Gonzales and the rest of the CMs for protecting East End residents health, safety and welfare when METRO fails to do that.

  6. Ralfff says:

    METRO is guilty of incompetence in the planning and testing. But it’s ultimately not METRO’s responsibility to clean up someone else’s pollution, it’s the government’s problem. The City should have rushed to resolve this as quickly as possible instead of making more delays for which METRO would take all the blame. I myself was confused as to why METRO was going ahead instead of enduring a short delay, but I realize now that they correctly anticipated that the City Council, instead of doing anything about the pollution, would just extract further concessions from METRO.

    Similarly, enabling roads to compete directly with the train would just further undermine METRO’s own ridership. It made zero sense to begin with from METRO’s perspective and just saddles them with more road infrastructure they are on the hook to maintain.

    Finally, while METRO and the city should absolutely try to build for the future, the fact is that presently is that there is nothing there. Go and look for yourself, it’s a dilapidated out-of-place-looking strip mall on one side of the street there, and nothing on the other. It’s not surprising because few people want to be right next to an active freight rail line. So at worst, it’s an unsightly structure in the middle of nothing.

    Also, as far as beautification; these public works arts projects usually cost way too much and are ignored or vandalized. Invite skilled graffiti artists to take large segments of the overpass side over for their works and pay them a nominal fee. It would do far more to make the place than some aluminum tree-like thing.

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