August 06, 2006
More routes proposed for Universities line

In all the argument over Richmond-versus-Westpark for the route of the Universities line, I've been wondering why so little has been said about where a proposed Westpark line would go east of Kirby. Having now seen what that would mean, I'm not surprised no one has wanted to talk about it.

[Metro spokeswoman Sandra Salazar] said an alignment suggested by City Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck calls for the line to travel west on Richmond from Metro's current Wheeler station near Main, turn south on Mandell or Dunlavy and follow the north side of the Southwest Freeway to Edloe, where it would cross over to Westpark and continue to the Hillcroft Transit Center.

Culberson's suggestion, Metro said, would run "from Richmond in the vicinity of the University of St. Thomas to U.S. 59 (Southwest Freeway) to a transition point into the Westpark right-of-way." Other details were not available.

Culberson aide Nick Swyka said the congressman was only asking Metro to look at this proposal, which Swyka said he told Culberson about after learning that Afton Oaks resident Ted Richardson had an idea for elevated rail beside the Southwest Freeway.

Because the routes would pass through Councilwoman Ada Edwards' district, Metro said, her approval will be sought.

Metro said Clutterbuck's proposed route would pass through the Richwood Place and Castle Court neighborhoods and "along" the city's Ervan Chew Park at Dunlavy and Castle Court.

Laura Mullen, president of the Richwood Place Civic Association, expressed dismay at the news.

"They would be condemning properties from Dunlavy to Shepherd," she said. "There are people who have their fences right behind the sound walls (that protect the neighborhood from freeway noise).

"Are they going through a Little League field (in Chew Park)?" she asked. "The field abuts the sound wall.

"Our neighborhood is split 50-50 on having rail on Richmond, so this is going to be quite explosive," said Mullen, who lives on Lexington.

First things first: I don't have a tape measure handy, but I feel pretty certain that there's less public right of way on Mandell and Dunlavy than there is on Richmond. Frankly, I don't know how you could squeeze in the tracks and still have any room for car traffic. There'd be no more street parking anywhere along this path, that's for sure. I'm a little amazed that anyone might think this could work.

Second, as noted in another story, this would mean condemning 50-75 houses, according to Metro. Those houses are in Congressional District 7. Does John Culberson care any less about that than he professes to claim about the businesses on Richmond? He hasn't commented yet.

And as that second story says, Council Member Edwards is not pleased by this.

Edwards, informed by Metro that the route proposed by Clutterback could cost her district dozens of homes, said Clutterbuck should have contacted her before presenting the idea.

"Nobody discussed it with me," Edwards said. "The council member can call it what she wants - a plan, a directive, a good idea. But the point is that, at the end of the day, it would take homes in District D and I am against that."

Edwards said she will be attending hastily scheduled meetings of civic clubs in her district today to discuss the proposal.

She said she did not know how residents will react.

"We have no decision on it, because we haven't seen (the plan)," she said. "But from what we heard of it, I'm not pleased."

As Christof pointed out from Metro's presentation:

Between Richmond and Kirby, the right-of-way for Richmond varies from 75 feet to 81 feet. Two light rail tracks and 4 traffic lanes require 76 feet; at stations and left turn lanes 86 feet are required. Of the roughly 210 properties along this section, 30 properties would need to have a 4-8 foot strip taken off the front, 52 properties would need a 1-4 foot strip taken, and the rest - 60% - would remain intact.

Call me crazy, but that sounds like a lot less need for takings than this Clutterbuck/Culberson proposal does. And we haven't even taken into account cost and ridership projections. I can't see how this proposal does anything but satisfy one group of people at the expense of what looks to me to be a larger group of other people.

UPDATE: Tory proposes a Westpark alternative that sounds reasonable, though I'm still highly skeptical of a crossover at Dunlavy. Read what he suggests and see what you think.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 06, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

I don't know how you could squeeze in the tracks and still have any room for car traffic. There'd be no more street parking anywhere along this path, that's for sure. I'm a little amazed that anyone might think this could work.

Nonsense. That didn't stop 'em from commandeering the Main Street bridge and essentially putting Main Street out of action.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on August 6, 2006 4:30 PM