HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — In Sarah Gutiérrez’s Eastwood neighborhood, bright red “Stop METRO” signs are popping up faster than spring flowers.
“I have more. I’ll put more out,” said Gutierrez, who has called the neighborhood home since the 1960s. “Signs do nothing. Action does. We want to tell METRO that we don’t want this monstrosity here.”
Gutierrez and his Eastwood neighbors are concerned about the proposed route of a portion of the University Bus Rapid Transit line that will pass through Houston when it is finished. The he community is primarily concerned about Segment 4, which is currently planned to run through Lockwood, with portions of it elevated to override existing train tracks.
“I don’t think they’ve thought about the impact of the neighborhood on what’s going to happen,” Gutierrez said. Her neighbors and members of the Eastwood Civic Club not only distributed signs but also set up a website and petition on Change.org.
Neighbors aren’t against Bus Rapid Transit, which puts buses on dedicated lanes like a light rail train. The highest profile BRT line is the current one which runs through the Galleria/Uptown area. Eastwood residents simply don’t want the METRO overpass proposing to make it happen. They would prefer the route moved a few blocks away and not be directly on Lockwood.
“We definitely appreciate everything the Eastwood community has told us,” said Tracy Jackson, METRO spokeswoman. Jackson points out that the transit agency began engaging with community members in 2017, even before voters approved the referendum to increase transit options.
“METRO understands that transit projects need to improve communities,” Jackson said, adding that many options were being considered. “What we know at this point is that if we move with an underpass instead of an overpass, that would increase flooding issues for the community.”
City Council Member Robert Gallegos will hold a community meeting Tuesday night to bring all parties together. He admits that finding a compromise will be difficult.
“The concern is that METRO is proposing an overpass or underpass,” said Gallegos, who says his goal is to hear everyone’s arguments. “Houston is getting bigger and the ports are going to have more cargo, so we’re going to have more trains in the future, so we need to look at how we can get vehicles over the railroad tracks.”
But for Gutierrez and his neighbors, all they want is for the planned bus lanes to move to a different street.
“I’m for mass transit. I’m just not for that (cutting) in my neighborhood,” Gutierrez said.
Armed with the arguments of her neighborhood, Guiterrez rode to meetings on Tuesday, riding the METRO light rail.
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