Light Rail Construction On The East End Line Not Going Smoothly For Businessowners

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Metro board members yesterday heard from a business owner who said that light rail construction near his used car dealership is causing him to lose money because Metro isn't keeping all its promises.

Mark Rodriguez, the business owner, has a used car lot on Harrisburg Boulevard near the intersection at Lockwood Drive, where Metro is working on its East End light rail corridor. Before the work started, Rodriguez, along with other business owners along other planned corridors, had concerns that the construction would disrupt business.

Metro said it would do a number of things to help, like provide signs for businesses cut off from normal traffic by the construction, letting people driving by know that the businesses are still open. Rodriguez has no sign.

"The signs we would like to put up, the city said now we can't do it," said David Wolff, chairman of the Metro board. The city passed a new sign ordinance that became effective at the beginning of the year, outlawing Metro from using the type of sign it had planned. 

"We're trying to work something out with the city," Wolff said.

Rodriguez was plagued with other problems, too.

In front of his car lot, he told the board, construction crews leave piles of dirt each night, and Rodriguez finds his cars covered in a layer of dirt each morning. Furthermore, Metro said that the crews wouldn't block both lanes of traffic, but Rodriguez said they do, carrying pipes down the street on front end loaders.

While board members were trying to figure out who was the appropriate person to address Rodriguez's concerns, Frank Wilson, Metro's president, interrupted the conversation to find out why another promise wasn't kept.

That promise involved Parsons Transportation Group, which, in March of last year, signed a $1.46 billion contract with Metro to head up construction on the four planned rail corridors. Parsons was supposed to have a foreman at construction sites to fix any problems "in real time," so Metro wouldn't have to do the work that should be covered by Parsons under that $1.46 billion price tag.

Rodriguez said he had no luck with the foreman.

"I'm glad you came today," Wolff told Rodriguez. "It's great that you alerted us that our system is not working the way it's supposed to."

Update:  Margaret O'Brien-Molina, a Metro spokeswoman, tells us via e-mail that Metro hopes to have an agreement with the city regarding the signs in 30 days, if not sooner. She adds, "Metro representatives have been out to Mr. Rodriguez's place on more than one occasion and take his allegations very seriously."

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