METRO driveway construction at center of dispute

October 18, 2011 4:27:27 PM PDT
It's a driveway dispute that one auto repair shop owner says is driving his business into the ground. The dispute centers around METRO construction in a north Houston neighborhood.

METRO says the crux of the problem is new ADA requirements for sidewalks, and a new sidewalk is being built in front of AJ's Grease Rack. But the business owner says it's going to hurt his longtime business.

In the 38 years AJ's Grease Rack has been open, owner Arthur Villasenor doesn't remember business ever being so bad. The problem right now is the construction to make way for a new METRO line that has his garage blocked in and inaccessible and his driveway destroyed.

"Right now I'm just trying to survive," Villasenor said.

But the end is nowhere in sight, Villasenor says, because of what METRO is planning to do with his driveway.

"They're trying to put the driveway here in front of the building," said Villasenor.

That's instead of rebuilding the driveway to the garage's work bays, leaving little room for drivers to maneuver.

The reason, according to METRO, is new rules to make the sidewalk handicap accessible.

"The problem with moving it a little further down is then we would not be in compliance with city of Houston regulation and ADA requirements," said Jerome Gray with METRO.

But Villasenor says an off-center driveway would be a big inconvenience to customers.

"They would go somewhere else -- which probably a lot of them have done already," he said.

METRO told Eyewitness News that they're eager to find a solution.

"We know this is a huge sacrifice for a number of businesses along the corridors. What we want to do is everything we can to minimize the impact," said Gray.

Villasenor says he just wants his customers pulling their cars into his business again.

"As soon as the place is finished, come on back here. I'm here to serve the community," Villasenor said.

Someone from METRO will be going over to AJ's Grease Rack to see what compromise can be made. We also put in a call to the city of Houston Public Works Department and were told the city will reach out to Villasenor as well.

METRO says in the meantime they do have some financial help available for small business owners impacted by METRO construction.

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