Residents in SE Houston protesting METRO rail line

April 3, 2010 5:02:51 PM PDT
Some residents are angered over a planned METRO light rail line. People in southeast Houston are worried it could bring big changes to their community, so they're getting together to fight it. The protestors say the line could sacrifice some of their history, but METRO says that's not the case.The Southeast Line is proposed to go from southeast Houston, through MacGregor Park into downtown. In a few years, it might be good news for some commuters, but others say they don't want these rails in their community at all.

At the corner where OST meets MLK, a prayer is being said to save a tree. But it's not just any tree.

"This tree is special because it was planted in 1983 by members of the Black Heritage Society and members of the King family in his honor," said Dee Simon of the MacGregor Place Civic Club.

Dr. Derek King is the nephew of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He was here when this tree was planted.

"This area in the park was set aside symbolically as a place of remembrance and recollection," said Dr. Derek King.

Now these protestors say METRO has plans to uproot this tree to make way for light rail that would extend into southeast Houston. Residents who live here say they don't want it or need it.

"If we can't fill a bus in 24 hours, we certainly will not fill up a train," said Dee Simon.

She heads the MacGregor Place Civic Club. She's worried light rail running through a park and several nearby schools will be a dangerous addition to her neighborhood.

"We do not want light rail to have accidents with our residents, our seniors, our children, as has been seen in the last three and a half weeks," said Simon.

Their fears run deeper. Once light rail rolls into southeast Houston, Ida Mouton wonders if her home of 42 years will be torn down to make way for bigger, newer condos and lofts.

"I'm not understanding why they would come in here with this rail. It's gonna be like Main St. - all rails, no homes or anything," said Mouton.

METRO's spokesperson says they have tried to minimize disruption to the community when considering the route, but it's a plan that was voted on and approved in 2003.

"We have looked at plans, re-examined them, adjusted them, and will continue to do that, but not everybody in the world is going to be happy with what the train does," said METRO Spokesperson Margaret O'Brien-Molina.

With an aging community, many of whom use walkers to get around, moving at the speed of light rail just doesn't cut it. For Mouton, cutting out a piece of history doesn't either.

"We wouldn't have anything to remind us what he did for us. And he did a lot," said Mouton of King.

METRO's spokesperson says they are in talks to make the line more reasonable for the protestors, but construction is underway and the project is slated for completion in late 2014.


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