METRO light rail begins new phase

July 13, 2009 4:21:42 PM PDT
The City of Houston broke ground on a project on Monday that will have a major impact on how people get around town.The ceremony marks the beginning of construction for the next two METRO light rail lines.

It's an expansion plan that's brought serious concern from neighborhoods and businesses along the routes.

In the house her family has called home for 45 years, Gloria Zuniga worries that the impending METRO light rail that will zip past her back fence will change the neighborhood forever.

"The city has to grow, people got to go somewhere, but I just hope it doesn't drive out seniors," Zuniga said. "Where are the people who cannot afford the high taxes, where are they going to go?"

For businesses and homeowners along the proposed north rail line, concerns about higher property taxes and construction headaches are not new. What is new today is a grand ground-breaking ceremony that brought in state and local elected leaders to signal that yes, construction is finally going forward.

"We are here today all united to open this next phase, a great transit system for my hometown of Houston," Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said.

With bipartisan support and $150 million slated in the federal budget, METRO light rail is finally poised to expand throughout Houston, though there are still lots of unknowns, like just how much money METRO can cough up to buy the land it needs. Lupe Ramirez is waiting to find out.

"If they give you a fair price, I'd go for it," he said.

Fights over price, land use, and construction timelines are all in the future, and for the Zuniga family the pace of progress isn't going to wait.

"Ready or not, here it comes," Zuniga said. "It's going to be in my backyard."

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