HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN PUTTING THE BRAKES ON ALL THOSE LAWSUITS The company planning to build a bullet train between Houston and Dallas appears to be altering the legal strategy it had been using to try to get landowners to allow crews on their land to survey property along the proposed 240-mile route. Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby says Texas Central Partners has withdrawn 17 lawsuits across the state (including one in Harris County that had a trial scheduled for July) and settled 21 others that had sought court-ordered access. Officials of the private company now say they will seek an “open dialogue” with property owners about letting crews in. The company tells Formby it has already reached land-purchase options with more than 3,000 landowners, accounting for 30 percent of the total number of parcels it needs, and 50 percent in the 2 counties along the route adjacent to Harris County: Grimes and Waller. The company announced last week that the train is now expected to begin operating in 2023. [Texas Tribune; Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Map of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central Railway
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ANOTHER KIDDIE TRAIN COULD PRESERVE HERMANN PARK’S PARKING HERITAGE “Right now is a bad time to be predicting parking lot requirements for the next 20 years. Driverless cars may make them obsolete. If that happens, they can turn the parking lot into a ‘parking lot museum’ — kids of the future can visit it to get a feel for what life in the 20th century was like. They could even ride the Vulture Express, a 2mph trip up and down row after row of filled parking spaces that goes on for hours.” [Memebag, commenting on Grassy Knolls, Children’s Swamp Part of Possible Hermann Park Parking Coverup] Photo of Hermann Park kiddie train: Lou Minatti
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS “The love affair with trains by a certain group of urbanists in the US is a ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality; they always point how wonderful public transport is in Europe. Well, if you actually lived in you Europe (and I have for many years), you realize that public transport is a horrible pain in the ass to live with every day. It’s inefficient if you have to go anywhere that is not on direct route, you have to make plans days in advance if you need to be across town at a particular time, you have to go to the market every F-ing day to buy food because you can’t carry more than a couple of bags at a time. You eventually give up after a while and end up confining your life to within a couple of blocks of your house. Don’t even get me started when the weather is bad. There’s one thing everyone in dense European cities dreams of: owning a car.” [commonsense, commenting on Which Came First: the Traffic or the Freeway Lanes?] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: CYCLING THROUGH TRAFFIC JAMS ON THE ROAD TO THE AMERICAN DREAM “The real crux of the issue here is that Americans are constantly sold on the idea that cars represent ultimate freedom and prosperity. That image breaks down when crowds of commuters start forming giant, slow-moving, panic-inducing trains of automobiles. The cognitive dissonance causes automobilists to latch on to the only solution they can imagine: ‘wider roads will restore that feeling of freedom.’ Of course, it never really works out that way.” [Derek, commenting on Which Came First: the Traffic or the Freeway Lanes?] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BEFORE WE EVEN GET AROUND TO A BULLET TRAIN “This train is needed and do-able, and I bet there are federal funds all up in it . . . However, shouldn’t Houston be moved to higher ground first — before making the long-term commitment?” [movocelot, commenting on Possible Station Locations for Houston-to-Dallas High-Speed Rail: Jersey Village, Mangum Manor, Downtown?] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: HOW TO KILL THE GRID IN THE EAST END “What happened when the quiet zone went in in the First Ward? Every street got closed. Holly, Goliad, Hickory, Johnson, Colorado, Sabine, Silver, Henderson, all gone. The neighborhood was cut in two. The grid died, leaving something that looks like the cul-de-sacs-and-thoroughfares of the ’burbs.
Now, Cullen could probably use an underpass. Sampson/York too. But what’s gonna happen in the East End when stuff gets value engineered out?
Leeland: quite possibly gone.
All those little side streets you like to ride your bike or walk your dog on because there’s low traffic, these will all be severed. And for what? So UP can operate remote-controlled locomotives? This is not a positive development.” [Jeff Davis, commenting on Headlines: Waiting for Trains in the East End; Waiting for Dunkin’ Donuts in Montrose]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: STUCK AT THE WEST BELT CROSSING IN THE EAST END “As long as some of those trains take at that awful crossing at Cullen, some people have probably died of old age waiting for the crossing arms to come up (though if you know the neighborhood, all you have to do is get to Milby from behind the old Fingers and you can cross under at Polk. You’re welcome.) That said, while it’s nice that everyone is suddenly so aware of the inconvenience and potential danger of these trains, it isn’t as though this were a new thing. That one Union Pacific line parallel to Harrisburg is just as unpredictable and twice as loud as the one in the article; it runs immediately adjacent to homes for miles. I know; I’ve lived by both. It did this for decades before I got here and no one has done anything about it that I know of, but I suppose that’s the price paid when the neighborhood’s skin isn’t quite as light and its homes aren’t quite as expensive. I understand, though; when the town-home dwelling white folks aren’t happy, nobody’s happy.” [Chris, commenting on Headlines: Waiting for Trains in the East End; Waiting for Dunkin’ Donuts in Montrose]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: GROWING UP BY THE CANDY TRAIN “It really isn’t that bad. I was born on Winter St., and for many years the trains ran right in front of my house. I remember the house would shake and as a kid I would run outside and the conductor would always throw me peppermint candy. Good memories.” [Johnnie, commenting on A Little Winter St. Front Yard Action]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: KEEP THOSE TRAINS MOVING BY MY HOUSE, PLEASE “This is a great photo of the cars that Union Pacific parks behind our neighborhood on a constant basis. I’ve been fighting them for 1 1/2 years now about leaving running refrigerated cars there overnight. Those suckers are LOUD. Yeah, I understand the track was there way before my house but we didn’t have this problem until UP started using it as a delivery point for a local distributor 2 years ago. Miserable sleep for 10 households just so UP can save a few bucks. When the cars aren’t running, I actually enjoy the constant change of scenery. We’ve seen some pretty interesting stuff back there.” [JenBen00, commenting on Headlines: Affordable Housing Demos; Young Houston]
SHHHH ON THE TRACKS! FIRST WARD WINTER ST. QUIET ZONE ARRIVES IN 2 WEEKS Approvals all in, construction and signage complete, a “quiet zone” for the Union Pacific rail line that runs along Winter St. in the First Ward will go into effect on September 27th, after the end of a 21-day waiting period. Several years in the making, the zone will prohibit freight-train engineers from blasting their horns at grade crossings — unless something or someone is on the tracks in front of them. Not included in the loud-horn ban, reports the Washington Quiet Zone team, responsible for getting the quiet zone on Washington between Sherwin and National streets in place last year: the southernmost track running through the First Ward, which carries about 25 percent of area freight traffic. Adding that track to the new Winter St. zone may take several more years. [Washington Quiet Zone; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Sarah Fleming [license]
Liking the views you’ve seen of the new Walmart coming to the former Trinity Industries steel fabrication property at Yale and Koehler in the West End? Well, one of them could be yours! A few more of those front-row townhouses lining the property’s southern edge will soon be available, reports 11 News reporter Shern-Min Chow.
“Sitting on the couch to the fence line is roughly 55 feet,” brags Anne Marie Leahey, who says she’ll be selling her 1,167-sq.-ft. townhome on Center Plaza Dr. soon. Chow sounds impressed:
Her home is beautiful. The inside is stunning. As she pulled the bay window curtains back, it was clear the view outside would also be eye-catching. Her home looks out directly onto the site of the new Walmart.
Leahey, a Bonner Street Homeowners Association board member, was already thinking about moving before she heard of the new development, but has since decided to relinquish her home now instead of waiting. That’ll give some more dedicated Walmart fan a chance to enjoy the complete construction process from close range. She tells Chow she regularly gets calls from neighbors asking her if they should move, too.
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Several retail outlets near the railroad tracks at the base of Heights Blvd. near Center St. are complaining that traffic changes accompanying the new Washington Ave. quiet zone have already hurt their businesses. Department of Public Works spokesperson Alvin Wright tells Channel 39’s Jason Volentine that Federal Railroad Administration requirements mandate that crossovers through the Heights Blvd. median near the tracks be closed off for the quiet zone to be implemented.
Without a quiet zone, train conductors are required to blast their horns at all at-grade crossings. The Washington quiet zone will extend from Sherwin St. north of I-10, to National, about a quarter-mile east of Studewood:
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“Welcome to the ideal property for train lovers, its located near a semi-active train tract,” begins the listing for this 5-bedroom, 4,164-sq.-ft. home backing up to the tracks on Community Dr. in College Court, the far western edge of West U. Writes the reader who sent it in:
I give them points for having the guts to address the issue head on (may be limiting the pool of buyers by focusing on such a niche though!)
Not mentioned in the $799K listing: the high-voltage power lines that run parallel to the tracks. Also, there’s the bad feng shui: The front door faces onto the end of Judson St.
THE SECRET TRAIN STATION HIDDEN DOWNTOWN “See, everyone in Houston thinks that our old train station was over by Enron Field (this blog does not recognize Minute Maid’s sponsorship deal) and that it’s been preserved as part of the ballpark. But actually, we had TWO stations – the Southern Pacific had their own, seperate from the Astros station, a mission/art deco fusion with beautiful murals on the walls and great big arched windows. Pictures of the place . . . are few and far between, but the ones I’ve seen show something that rivals LA Union Terminal or [Philadelphia’s 30th St. Station.] That station was torn down to make way for the Barbara Jordan [Post Office], except that ONLY THE WAITING ROOM WAS TORN DOWN. The whole mess of platforms and switchtracks that goes along with an art deco station building is still there, behind the post office, rusted and overgrown but still in existence as a huge chunk of UP-owned real estate.” [Keep Houston Houston]
A reader sends in this photo, wanting us to
check out this newly built house in the first ward. On the dirt road aka Winter st. just east of White.
Who would build a house with the train running through their front yard?1?
Only in Houston.
Photo: Swamplot inbox