July 21, 2006
Harrisburg selected for East End line route

The very uncontentious process for selecting a route on which the East End BRT will run has come to a conclusion, with Harrisburg being the winner.

Scheduled to begin construction next July and open in December 2010, the line would begin operation with train-like buses on their own guideway and be converted to light rail if ridership increases enough.

Although member Rafael Ortega had proposed to help preserve street access to businesses and industry on Harrisburg by putting part of the line on a nearby hike-and-bike trail, the final vote was unanimous.

The street was once a trolley route and is historically the business core of the East End, a largely Hispanic neighborhood that is seeing economic revival after years of decline. The town of Harrisburg was founded a decade before Houston itself, which annexed it in 1926.

"It's going to hurt my business for a while," said Bob Townley, owner of C&R Auto, 5702 Harrisburg. "But I think Harrisburg is the only intelligent way to approach the East End," he said.

"I've been 35 years in business in the East End. I think it's going to be good for the city."

Wow. The difference in response between the East End folks and the Universities Line crowd just amazes me. One might hypothesize that there's a partisan aspect to this, but that's not necessarily the case.

Also sounding a positive note was state Rep. Beverly Woolley, whose Houston Armature Works occupies both sides of Harrisburg for a two-block span and needs access by 18-wheelers.

"I feel like our concerns are going to be addressed," she said after hearing Ortega suggest that Metro might improve Texas Avenue, a block south of Harrisburg, to handle traffic displaced by the line or its construction.

"If they do everything they say, it will work out fine, but there are just so many unknowns," Woolley said.

Whatever Metro did with the stakeholders on this line, it needs to do more of it. And remember, the East End folks were pissed at Metro when they announced that the Harrisburg corridor would be getting BRT instead of light rail as they had expected, so it's not like the transit agency started with an extra well of goodwill here. Perhaps the result here will give them some momentum going forward on the Universities line.

Finally, regarding what Bob Townley said about the BRT line being good for the East End, it'll definitely be worth checking back in ten years or so to see how things turn out. The Main Street Line has been a catalyst for real estate development in other previously neglected parts of town. A comparison of the two sometime later on should be very interesting.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 21, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack