Thursday, June 14, 2012

Next LRT/university clash arises in Houston

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With some exceptions, U.S. universities appear reticent to invite light rail transit onto the college campus.

The latest to balk is the University of Houston, now reportedly asking Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro)  to keep LRT off its property in developing the city's Southeast Line. "I can confirm for you that UH did ask Metro to move the lines off campus," Richard Bonnin, executive director of UH Media Relations, said recently to local media.

Metro had planned to run its line along Wheeler Street, within the university property line, and turning north along university property onto Scott Street. But Metro has been unable to purchase any property or easement rights to advance the plan.

Observers say the university's reluctance may be linked to plans for a new sports stadium to be built on Scott Street.

Metro spokesman Jerome Gray said talks with the university have been held, though "nothing has been finalized." He added, "But the bottom line is the Southeast line is not being moved off UH property.

LRT development or proposals have generated concern, if not outright resistance, from several colleges nationwide in recent years, including in St. Paul, Minn., College Park, Md., and Princeton, N.J. By contrast, San Diego State University negotiated to have its LRT stop placed underground, in part because an underground station would better serve the center of its campus.