Houston Metro Proposes Undergrounding BRT Line

To ease community concerns, the agency is proposing an underpass in lieu of a prior plan that would have elevated a new rapid transit line above a portion of its downtown route.

2 minute read

April 6, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

After backlash from community groups, Houston’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) announced it would nix plans to build an overpass for the University Corridor bus rapid transit (BRT) route, opting instead for an underpass that “would allow buses, and emergency vehicles if necessary, to drive below the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, which are another source of frustration for the East End community. A pedestrian and bicycle path also would flow under the tracks, while automobile drivers still would cross the tracks at ground level.” 

Dug Begley describes the changes in the Houston Chronicle, whose editorial board has called the University Corridor line a “crucial project.” The underpass option would give buses a dedicated lane and let them avoid delays at the train crossing without requiring extra space. “Officials believe they can control flooding, based on the most current county flood maps, by installing flood gates Metro can manage.”

As Begley explains, “The decision to ditch the planned overpass at Lockwood and Harrisburg, following weeks of discussion and at the urging of local elected officials, clears Metro to approve its preferred route for the University Corridor, the 25.3-mile backbone of planned bus rapid transit in the region.”

Begley notes that it remains unclear whether the changes will appease critics of the project. “Skeptics of Metro’s $7.5 billion long-range plan, approved by voters in 2019, note that the Silver Line buses, predicted to carry thousands of shoppers in workers in The Galleria area, snake mostly empty along the street because of changes in commuting patterns following the COVID pandemic that has meant fewer commuters coming into the area five days a week.”

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