Local

East End residents upset over utility poles in middle of sidewalks

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A lot of residents in Houston's East End are upset right now. Millions of dollars were spent to improve sidewalks but now neighbors say they can't walk on one without running right into a utility pole.

The community improved the sidewalks while trying to make the most out of light rail construction, but then came the utility poles. Now the complaints are coming in from folks who live and work along Harrisburg Boulevard and the new East End light rail line.

The sidewalk in front of her family business is almost useful, Sandra Mayorquin says, except for the utility pole right in the middle.

"I don't like it. It's in the middle of the street, especially for people who are handicapped. How are thing going to go through the street," said Mayorquin.

It's a problem up and down Harrisburg Blvd. as poles are popping up like weeds in the middle of new sidewalks.

"We got 24 percent of our people handicapped, so we regularly see people in wheelchairs and scooters," said Diane Schenke, who runs the Greater East End Management District.

The district built the new sidewalks when METRO began constructing a new light rail line. Everyone was supposed to work together so the new Harrisburg can be a gateway to Houston's East End.

"We worked very closely with the Greater East End Management District and the community through our community advisory board, all the neighborhood folks, so a lot of the things you see out there are the product of that collaboration. But when it comes to the location of those poles, you've got to talk to CenterPoint about why they're there," said METRO CEO George Greanias.

We contacted CenterPoint Energy about the wayward poles. Late Wednesday afternoon, CenterPoint released a statement saying, "As developments take place, adjustments need to be made."

Schenke says CenterPoint told her the poles are legal because they give at least 32 inches of clearance on one side. But she points out just because it's legal, doesn't mean it makes sense.

"There may be a 32-inch clearance, but literally it's in the middle of the sidewalk," said

Even if the poles are in compliance, the people who live and work in this neighborhood say it's not making the area walkable and they would like more cooperation with those involved.

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