Soil contamination causes controversy during METRORail expanison

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter

HOUSTON - METRO may have to change its expansion in east Houston to go above ground and bypass a freight railroad due to contaminated soil.

The transit authority knew there was gasoline contaminated soil in the 6300 block of Harrison, but said it did not realize the extent of the pollution when it first planned a tunnel to take the light rail underground.

METRO feared the cancer-causing chemicals could spread if it builds a tunnel, a project the community had supported.  If the ground is undisturbed, METRO believes there is no danger to the public.

METRO said the disturbing the gasoline polluted ground could expand the area of contamination and affect drinking water and property values.  After its engineering studies, METRO looked at options, including an overhead bypass, to connect the rail to the Magnolia Park Transit Center

"The environmental issues are more severe," said Gilbert Garcia, the METRO board chair.

He said the best option may now be to build a bridge over the railroad. 

Garcia told Local 2, "Now they'll be going over one way each direction for people who want to bypass the railroad track and now there will be at grade meaning at street level one lane each way."

"Now we're back to square one. The concern here is that a bridge, an overpass will divide the community," said Marilu De La Fuente.

La Fuente is a life-long resident, the president of the Harrisburg Heritage Society and is on METRO's Community Advisory Board.

She did not want an overpass for the train and traffic. 

LaFuente  Local 2, "It is very important for the business people. The business in the area. Look at Navigation. Killed everything in its path. And I can envision the Fulton one killing everything in its path as well."

METRO planned a meeting Tuesday at 2 p.m. at its headquarters downtown to brief its board and residents about the latest information.

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