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North Line BRT groundbreaking in July

Lawsuit or not, at least one part of the Metro expansion plan is moving forward.

Metro officials Thursday told Greater Northside Management District executive director Rebecca Reyna and other members of the North Corridor Coalition that construction of the 5.4-mile North Bus Rapid Transit line could break ground in early July.

The project will go from the University of Houston-Downtown to Northline Mall. It will run along Fulton Street north of downtown through the Greater Northside district, which is bordered by West Little York, the Hardy Toll Road, Interstate 45 and downtown.

“How much notice will we get before you start construction?” Reyna asked members of the Metro project team. “We really want to work with the businesses and residents in our district.”

The North Corridor Coalition is a group of business and civic organizations along Interstate 45 that support the implementation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 2025 System Plan and a mass transit system from downtown to The Woodlands.

Pete Finn, Metro’s North transit line project director, said Metro’s project management company planned to roll out a comprehensive public outreach plan that includes community, town-hall and stakeholder meetings.

I wonder if the bogus attacks about the line’s route will come up again. The anti-Richmond lawsuit threw in stuff about BRT in its filing, even though plaintiff Daphne Scarbrough doesn’t live or work near any other line.

Speaking of the route, here’s a reminder of what it is:

Before the Metro board approved the route last fall, the alignment was switched from Irvington/Cavalcade to Fulton because that is what the community wanted, Finn said.

The North Bus Rapid Transit line starts at the Intermodal Terminal Facility on North Main near the University of Houston-Downtown.

Following North Main out of downtown, an aerial structure will extend about one-half mile to the first Northline station –Burnett Station — and then beyond to a point south of Hogan Street where the tracks return to ground level.

North of the second station — Quitman Station — the line turns east on Boundary Street and joins up with Fulton Street.

The line continues north on Fulton to Northline Mall, with stops at Catherine Station near the intersection of Fulton and Irvington; Cavalcade Station at Cavalcade and Fulton; Graceland Station at Fulton and Graceland; Melbourne Station north of the Fulton/Loop 610 intersection; and the Northline Station at Northline Mall, which is located near Fulton and Crosstimbers.

The Quitman Station will probably be the closest thing to my house. Too far to walk, but bicycling might be an option, if there isn’t a parking lot there.

Though most of the major construction would not start until after the design/construction contract is awarded in February 2008, Finn said the project would break ground in early July and some construction activities would start soon after.

“We plan to start in the vicinity of Northline Mall and go south,” Finn said.

[…]

Jack Drake, president of the Greater Greenspoint Management District and a North Corridor Coalition member, asked if Metro would consider converting the North line from a bus rapid transit system to a light rail system when ridership numbers climbed high enough.

Finn said that it would. In fact, he said, if the Washington Group found a way to build a light-rail line with money allocated in the initial project, they could forego the bus-rapid transit system. If not, tracks for the light-rail system would be constructed in the bus-rapid transit guideway.

“We were told that 2012 may be when we could jump on a vehicle at UH-Downtown and travel to Northline Mall for lunch,” Drake said. “Is that still the plan?”

Cyndi Robinson, Metro’s senior project manager for planning, engineering and construction, said the plan is to start construction next year and finish by 2012.

Can’t happen soon enough, I say.

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