February 20, 2008
Addressing the rail question for the soccer stadium

Having harped on the issue, I'm glad to see the question of where the light rail lines east of downtown will run if the new soccer stadium is built on the land now being considered by the city is being discussed.

Bob Eury, president of Central Houston and executive director of the Houston Downtown Management District, said Tuesday that the probable front-running option being considered is to approach downtown's east side on Texas Avenue.

Currently, maps on the Metropolitan Transit Authority Web site show the East End and Southeast lines coming together on Capitol, a block south of Texas, and continuing into downtown on Capitol.

Also on the site is a Final Environmental Impact Statement, completed when Metro still intended to use Bus Rapid Transit rather than light rail on the lines, which shows the route split between Capitol and Rusk. The new proposal employs that tactic, Eury said.

By approaching downtown on Texas, he said, the tracks would "pass by the front door" of the soccer stadium between Dowling and Hutchins. Then they would angle south under U.S. 59 toward Avenida de Las Americas.

From there, a westbound track would continue on Capitol, passing a block from Minute Maid Park, while an eastbound track would run on Rusk, passing the convention center. Each would follow the direction of street traffic and cross the current Red Line at Main.

I'll refer you once again to Christof's post, which shows the various options. Annoyingly, the illustration of the route described above that was in the print edition doesn't appear online. But basically, this is one of the options that was available before there was talk of a stadium that would block some of the other options.

Eury cautioned that "various options are available," and that "none of this is final." Metro, he said, "is going to make the determination." Metro spokeswoman Sandra Salazar would only say that Eury's description was correct "and most importantly, that the plan has not been finalized, as we are working through the Federal Transit Adminstration process."

This borders on being unremarkable. Metro hasn't made a decision as to the final alignments of the Southeast and Harrisburg lines yet. This would clearly limit their choices, perhaps to the point of dictating them, but what remains seems perfectly reasonable. I don't see why this would affect the cost of construction, at least as far as laying the tracks is concerned. The questions of east-west automotive traffic that Christof raised still remain, but the point is that Metro isn't being forced to consider an alignment it hadn't already done. I'm sure there are some things I'm not thinking about, but offhand I don't see any big red flags. At least, no new ones.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Take another read of my post. What I see the problem being is how the FTA has reacted to Metro changes in the past, and what a change like this might do to the DEIS. Especially when you consider the traffic concerns that Christof lays out.

Overall I'm OK with the Dynamo having a stadium, I would just prefer the location make a little more sense.

Posted by: Cory on February 20, 2008 9:04 PM

Cory - OK, that's a fair point. I didn't catch your meaning. One would hope that with the ongoing discussions with the FTA over the BRT-to-LRT switch, this might come up and not be a big deal. We'll see.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2008 10:01 PM

Once again, Metro seems intent on serving the private interest rather than the public interest.

Once again, the public will have to fight tooth and nail to protect their interest.

That is not the way it is supposed to work. But apparently is the way it works. Which is why in the end it doesn't work.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on February 21, 2008 8:28 AM

Hey Chuck, a very good and informative update. What I'm not understanding is exactly why baby Snooks has the objection he does. Moving the track to accommodate the building of Dynamo Park seems a tiny concern. And the DP location is so ideal for so many reasons that those of us who are soccer heads should sing the hosannahs that the track has not been laid down yet. One silver lining in an otherwise depressing long slog.

Posted by: Martek on February 24, 2008 10:09 PM