Here's an update on Metro's planning for the Bus Rapid Tranit (BRT) line through the East End. This meeting, which was a scoping meeting, was apparently fairly free of rancor. That's a good thing, because like all rail lines, someone will be negatively impacted.
Where Harrisburg passes though the East End's commercial heart, near Wayside, it is five lanes wide. Of the three rearrangements that Metro is considering, two require widening the street and one of these would reduce it to one vehicle lane in each direction, as on Main Street in downtown and Midtown.
The third layout would fit mostly into the street's present dimensions, but transit vehicles would share the street with cars. Experience with the Main Street line, where the two are mostly separated, suggests there would be frequent collisions.
That leaves what Metro calls Option 2, with two transit tracks and four lanes of traffic. But this would increase the right-of-way from its current width of 90 feet to a maximum of 118 feet at stations with left-turn lanes.
"I've said it's going to destroy my business, and maybe destroy Harrisburg," said Lynn Woolley, president of Houston Armature Works, which makes electric motors for refineries and chemical plants. The business occupies both sides of Harrisburg for two blocks between Stiles and Burr.
Woolley said 18-wheelers need access to his plant, which has been there since 1960, but that they can't turn from a one-lane street, and a major widening will cut into his buildings.
"It's a serious problem, and there are other businesses in the same situation," he said.
Woolley said it would help if Metro would provide him access on the back side of the business by widening Texas a block to the south. "They say they're studying all the options," he said.
Other business operators, though, are enthusiastic about rapid transit on Harrisburg.
"That train isn't going to stop me from doing business," said Bob Townley, owner of C&R Auto, 5702 Harrisburg. "We work on some bobtails (trucks) and occasionally a tractor-trailer, and I understand the concern," he said.
"I'm not questioning that things are going to change. I'm questioning whether the change will be good or bad for us and the people in this neighborhood," Townley said. "Overall, I think it will be a great thing. I believe that in 20 years, this part of town is going to be like the Heights.
"We work on cars, and we're already doing a lot more lawyers and professors than we used to," he said.
Meanwhile, on the Universities line, there's some concern about the eastern portion of the route going through Texas Southern University.
Some Third Ward residents who attended a public hearing on Metro's University Corridor on June 27 don't want light rail running through the Texas Southern University Campus.
The possible route, part of MetroSolutions' larger plan to link routes throughout the city with bus rapid transit and light rail, goes east of Spur 527 down Wheeler Avenue and brings light rail through TSU.
"It shouldn't have even been an option," said Ed Banks, who describes himself as a community activist and said he has lived in Third Ward for 50 years. Banks said traffic disruptions have long been a concern for the TSU campus.
"Fifteen years ago, it was agreed to close Wheeler Street to through-traffic on the campus. Now Metro wants to run a rail straight through the middle of the thing. The rail is not an option that Third Ward residents are going to put up with. This is not just me talking."