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Houston METRO's board OKs controversial overpass project

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County's (METRO) board yesterday approved a plan to build a overpass to carry the Green Line light-rail system over Hughes Street in Houston.

The vote followed several meetings with residents, civic leaders and elected officials, and extensive discussions with environmental professionals on the subject of the Hughes Street overpass or underpass option, METRO officials said in a press release.

The board will move forward with the option that will enable light-rail and vehicular traffic to travel over Hughes Street. The option also provides a lane for vehicular traffic and pedestrian sidewalks at street level. Preliminary estimates peg the project's cost at $35 million to $43 million. The overpass is projected to take 31 months to complete, METRO officials said.

The underpass option would have cost $52 million to $68 million and taken about 42 months to complete. That cost estimate did not include the necessary environmental clean-up work outside the project area.

In voting for the controversial overpass option, the board rejected a request from residents, and city and state officials for a 30-day delay in deciding whether to build an overpass or underpass along Harrisburg at freight tracks near Hughes Street, the Houston Chronicle reported. The vote followed many months of discussions in which residents asked for the extension to further examine METRO's statements about environmental risk associated with an underpass, according to the newspaper.

The 3.3-mile Green Line, also known as the East End Line, is under construction. It will travel along Harrisburg from the Magnolia Park Transit Center through the city's historic End to downtown entertainment and business destinations.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/23/2014