Bike paths, wider sidewalks, better streetlights on Houston's wish list

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by Lee McGuire / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 2, 2010 at 7:06 PM

The City of Houston has asked the state for help funding nearly $29 million in pathway and lighting upgrades it would like to fund in 2010.

The "Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program" offers federal money to improve things like bike paths, pedestrian crossings and public landscaping. This week, the city of Houston requested funding for 15 projects. If approved, the federal government would pick up approximately 80 percent of the cost of the projects.

Suzy Hartgrove, a spokesperson for Houston's Planning and Development Department, sent 11 News a list of the requested projects:

Brays Path (Total cost: $2,627,187)
Brays Path includes two proposed segments of 10’-wide concrete shared-use path along Brays Bayou from 75th St. to Forest Hill and Lawndale to Old Spanish Trail. The path will add 1.9-mi. to an existing 1.1-mi. path, creating a continuous 3-mi. shared-use path. If approved, federal funds would pay for 75 percent of the project.
 
The path will complete approx. 1/3 of the developing “Brays Greenway” corridor project; a 9-mi. greenway project providing ped/bike access and amenities from Houston Ship Channel to Texas Medical Center. The Brays Path will connect business centers, residential communities, educational facilities, and cultural areas along the greenway including Texas Southern University, University of Houston, Hermann Park, the Museum District, the Texas Medical Center and a new Metro rail system at MacGregor Park. The project represents a critical link in a potentially 30-mile uninterrupted trail and alternative transportation route from the Ship Channel to the Addicks-Barker Reservoir.
 
Columbia Tap (Total cost: $544,747)
This project will expand the national Rail-to-Trail registry within the City of Houston, Harris County, Texas. The Columbia Tap Trail Connector project will enhance an on-street segment of bikeway with the introduction of an off-street, shared-use path and provide a direct link to segments of path north and south of the proposed project. This project will complete the rail to trail to create a safe and more direct connection between two new pedestrian-bicyclist bridges over Brays Bayou and State Highway 288. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
The pathway will be ten feet wide, constructed of six-inch thick concrete and utilizing a base comprised of six-inch thick lime stabilized sub-grade. This shared-use path will be constructed atop a railroad right-of-way between Shenandoah and MacGregor way. The project is to be located along railroad right-of-way that was purchased by the City of Houston in 2003. While the railroad tracks have been removed previously, some minor site preparation will be required prior to constructing the bikeway.
 
Cullen Park Path (Total cost: $498,235)
This proposal is to complete missing trail segments from the NW corner of Park Cypress & Barker Cypress to the SE corner of Park View & Saums. The trail would run on the west side of Barker Cypress from Park Cypress north to the boundary of Cullen Park. This section would be 10' wide concrete, except for a 208' boardwalk crossing of the Addicks Dam. The trail would then wind through the southern portion of Cullen Park, near soccer fields, then between the baseball fields & the Alkek Velodrome (one of only 22 in the United States). It would connect with existing 8' wide sidewalks on the north & south sides of a parking lot & then cross a short section of land to the northwest terminus. There are existing 8' wide sidewalks from the I-10 eastbound feeder road to Park Row. Park Cypress is a wide quiet residential street allowing safe hiking & biking access to and from Green Trails neighborhoods. The trail would connect 28.6 miles of trails south of I-10 with 7.1 miles of trails north of I-10 to create an extensive contiguous off-road paved trail network of 37 miles. The trail would serve as a commuter bikeway to the Park 10, Energy Corridor, Enclave and Westchase business/office centers. The trail would connect six parks (three north and three south of I-10): Bear Creek, Bill Archer, Cullen, Harris County Pct. #3 Sport/Skate, George Bush & Terry Hershey. This trail would allow a number of neighborhoods to connect to the trail network, including Westlake, Lake Ridge, Silvermill, Westfield, Barker's Ridge, Oak Ridge Park, Estates @ Cullen Park, Mayde Creek Farms, Park Harbor, Green Trails & Nottingham Country. If approved, federal funds would pay for 70 percent of the project.-
 
Downtown Sidewalks Crossing Main (Total cost: $1,77,884)
The current condition of sidewalks in the area is inadequate for the safe, user-friendly pedestrian activity. The proposed improvements will provide pedestrians with safe options while also greatly improving accessibility for the area by repairing all damaged and/or missing areas of sidewalks and creating connections to all wheelchair ramps and intersections. Included will be minor curb repair. Enhanced pedestrian conditions add to overall safety in the area as a catalyst toward the redevelopment of underutilized lots. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
The city of Houston is committed to the improvement of multimodal transportation options in DT Houston. The City proposes to reconstruct 20 blockfaces intersecting Main Street in DT in an area bounded by Travis, Clay, Jefferson, and Fannin. The pedestrian related improvements consist of wider sidewalks with increased lighting and new drive ways to fit the wider sidewalks. The current residential- level street lights will be replaced with a higher illumination experience on the sidewalk and in the crosswalks.  The locations are close to many bus routes and the LRT. Sidewalk enhancement in the area will facilitate pedestrian connections to the region’s largest employment center: the DT CBD as well as numerous large event venues, hospital services, high-rise businesses and new infill development.
 
Elgin/Ennis Pathways (Total cost: $1,943,155)
The Elgin/Ennis Pathways project is located in Houston's Historic Third Ward. It will run along Elgin from Highway 59 east to Velasco and along Ennis from Elgin south to Alabama. Houston's Third Ward community is a vibrant historic coummunity in southeast Houston. The project will include enhanced pathways along both sides of the corridors. The east end of the project starts at the junction of the recently completed Columbia Tap Hike and Bike Trail (2001 STEP project) running north south along Velasco. The new pathways will connect the historic Riverside Hospital, Ryan Elementary School, El Dorado Ballroom, Emancipation Park, and ultimately connecting to Highway 59. The improvements would include enhanced 6 foot wide sidewalks, new ramps, midblock pedestrian enhacements, landscaping, and site furniture at key locations of high pedestrian movements. Many pathways along the corridors are lacking basic sidewalks or are not accessible for pedestrians. These improvements will provide safe and secure setting and with the enhancements will encourage walkability within this community. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Fannin/Main Esplanades (Total cost: $3,749,706)
HP Esplanades will construct new shared-use paths (10ft.) within the grassy area (esplanade) between Main/Fannin Streets, from Houston's world-renowned Texas Medical Center to historic Mecom Fountain at Houston's first traffic circle and Sam Houston Statue. The esplanade is approx. 80' wide and 1mi long, with historic live oak trees lining the western edge and light rail running parallel along Fannin to the east. The esplanade is centrally located just 4mi south of downtown Houston: bordering Rice Univ., Hermann Park (Houston's major public park with 445 acres), Houston Zoo, TX Medical Center, and Houston Museum District. METRO transit provides north/south transportation along Fannin and Main, with several stops to allow cross traffic through the esplanade to the university, rail, park, medical center, and museum district. The esplanade is a logical location for a pedestrian/bicycle boulevard, with off-road accommodations for non-motorized traffic in all directions. The current sidewalks are in poor condition, not ADA compliant and in dire need of replacement. Other destinations in the vicinity include the Natural Science Museum adjacent to the median property, and the historic Warwick (ZaZa) Hotel adjacent to the Fine Arts Museum and Mecom Fountain. This is a major transportation corridor for all modes. Vehicular traffic counts include 36,300 ADT on Main and 49,200 ADT on Fannin/San Jacinto. Esplanade amenities will include: bike racks, benches, pedestrian lighting, landscaping, handicap accessible water fountains, and trash cans. The project will be complete before Hermann Park's centennial in 2014. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Hardy Scenic Corridor (Total cost: $3,268,209)
This project is for the voluntary acquisition of land adjacent to the Hardy Toll Road Extension from IH-610 into Downtown Houston. This land acquisition will coordinate with land that has been and is being acquired by the Harris County Toll Road Authority for linear detention. By purchasing this additional property, a continuous greenbelt or scenic corridor can be created from IH-610 into downtown. In addition to purchase of land and, in some cases, demolition of existing structures, reforestation and landscaping are included in this project. It is anticipated that one or more of the potential acquisitions may have on-site contamination from or prior operations. The Texas Rail Road Commission (RRC) is already involved and can provide assessment of these properties through the Targeted Brownfields Assessment Program. If any environmental concerns are identified, additional funding through RRC programs would be sought to address these concerns. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Houston SE Downtown Sidewalks (Total cost: $1,982,383)
The project is to remove the original 4’ wide sidewalk installed when the area was residential and install a 5’ wide sidewalk and ramp to accommodate the current pedestrian levels with accessible safer routes to the special events center, parks, entertainment as well as hospitals and doctors that surround the area. The city of Houston is committed to the improvement of multimodal transportation options in DT Houston. The City proposes to reconstruct 20 blockfaces intersecting Main Street in DT in an area bounded by Travis, Clay, Jefferson, and Fannin. In proximity to numerous bus and rail transportation options and an effective grid of vehicular traffic with on and off street parking, sidewalk reconstruction in the area will facilitate pedestrian connections to the region’s largest employment center: the DT CBD, as well as numerous event venues, Hospital Services and new infill development. The current condition of sidewalks in the area does not provide safe pedestrian activity or a comfortable walking surface. The proposed improvements will provide pedestrians with safe options while also greatly improving wheelchair accessibility for the area by repairing all damaged and/or missing areas of sidewalks and creating connections to all wheelchair ramps and intersections. Improved pedestrian conditions will help to improve regional air quality through transportation mode shift and a reduction in vehicle miles traveled, and add to overall safety in the area as a catalyst toward the redevelopment of underutilized lots. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
IMD Bikeways (Total cost: $2,007,843)
The International Management District ("IMD") Bikeways project is located in southwest Houston along existing Harris County Flood Control District conveyance channels. The project proposes a hike and bike trail originating from Art Storey Park, which is adjacent to Beltway 8, and runs west past Boone Road Park and then to Dairy Ashford, near Hackberry Park. The proposed trail will connect three heavily used parks in the District as well as Chambers Elementary School near Art Storey Park. Additional improvements are proposed at roadway bridge crossing and will include trail signage, markers, special paving, furniture, compost for existing Bellaire Blvd. tree plantings, District wayfinding signage, and bridge cleaning and planting. The District encompasses and area of 12 square miles and enjoys a prime location near major transit arteries including U.S. 59, the Sam Houston Tollway, and the Westpark Tollway.    Bellaire Boulevard and Highway 6 which represent the area's major commercial corridors. The recently formed District is helping to reshape this important Houston neighborhood into one of Houston's premiere regional neighborhoods. The District is located in an area called Alief which enjoys a diverse population. This proposed project represents a signficant extension of the District's efforts to revitalize the Alief area by projecting this new, dynamic vision for the neighborhood and ultimately improving the overall quality of life for it's residents. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Intersections in SMD (Total cost: $2,003,674)
The Intersections in SMD improvement project is located in Houston's Historic Third Ward and the Greater Southeast Management District("SMD"). Major TxDOT transportation corridors surround and bisect this area and, as in most parts of Houston, freeways area major influence on the movement to and from neighborhoods. Cooridors that encompass this area include U.S 59, I-45, 610, Hwy 288, Fannin and Main Streets. SMD, along with the Old Spanish Trail/Griggs Road Redevelopment Authority, are coordinating their activities to improve Third Ward through corridor and business development activities. This project represents a signficant extension of their efforts to revitalize Third Ward by improving the overall quality of life in this important neighborhood. The project proposes to upgrade TxDOT freeway structures through various non-invasive bridge column, rails, embankement, and pedestrian level improvements at fifiteen(15)intersections around the perimeter and interior of the community. Intersections include Almeda Rd @ U S 59; Hwy 288 @ O.S.T, MacGregor Way, Southmore, Blodgett, Wheeler, Cleburne & Alabama; I-45 @ Scott, Cullen, & Dowling; & S. 610 Loop @ MLK & Griggs. The imrovements would include cleaning, painting, tiling, and lighting enhancements along with special paving at pedestrian corners. These upgrades are not only of aesthetic value to the community but also provide a calming effect, and deter crime. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Intersections in GSMD (Total cost: $1,678,748)
The Intersections In GSMD project is located in southwest Houston and Greater Sharpstown Management District ("District") . The District encompasses and area of 10 square miles and enjoys a prime location near major transit arteries including US 59, the Sam Houston Tollway, and the Westpark Tollway. Bellaire Boulevard and US 59 represent the area's major commercial corridors. The District, in conjunction with the Southwest Houston Redevelopment Authority, is helping to reshape this important Houston neighborhood into one of Houstons premiere regional neighborhoods. This proposed project represents a significant extension of the District's efforts to revitalize the Sharpstown area by projecting this new, dynamic vision for the neighborhood and ultimately improving the overall quality of life for it's residents. The project proposes to develop design standards to upgrade existing TxDOT freeway structures through various non-invasive bridge column, rails, embankment, and pedestrian level improvements at Hillcroft, Bellaire, Fondren, Beechnut, Gessner, & Bissonnet, eight (8) intersections along US 59 and Beltway 8. The improvements would include cleaning, painting, tiling, and lighting enhancements along with limited pedestrian level enhancements such as architectural finished concrete and ornamental planters. In addition, two intersections are proposed to include native landscape treatments along the embankments of the freeway along Beltway 8 as an extension of the work implemented by an adjacent District. These improvements will deter crime and provide a calming effect. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Sidewalks to Schools (Total cost: $2,104,210)
This project will connect discontinuous sidewalks to improve the pedestrian environment adjacent to four schools within the the City of Houston. The lack of a cohesive network of sidewalks causes undue hardship for students, and in some instances, parents are
compelled to pay for private bus service to shuttle their children to school, as there is no school bus option. There are three elementary schools and one high school. The three elementary schools are Stevens (675 students), Bastian (709 students), and
Greentree (737 students). Community Education Partners is a high school that has 415 students in grades 6 thru 12. There is no public or school sponsored bus service provided to these schools, students are required to walk, obtain rides or contract with private bus services for a weekly fee of up to $20. This project will fund the construction of various five foot-wide concrete sidewalks along the roadways adjacent to these schools. All construction will take place in the existing City of Houston Street Right-of-Way, no additional land will need to be purchased or dedicated. The project locations include: Donna Bell: W. 43rd to La Monte (Stevens Elementary), Briscoe: Coffee to Bastian Elementary (Bastian Elementary), Sunflower: Coffee to Bastian Elementary (Bastian Elementary), Brook Shadow: Clover Valley Drive to Lake Houston Parkway (Green Tree Elementary), and Easthaven: Winkler to Community Education Partners (Community Education Partners). If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Thoroughfare Sidewalks (Total cost: $1,495,955)
This project will provide new sidewalk and connect disconnected sidewalk along two Major Thoroughfares within the City of Houston. The lack of a cohesive network causes undue hardship for local residents and reduces access for potential transit customers, as adjacent bus stops seem 'out of reach ' because there is no sidewalk connectivity. New housing developments along Cullen has generated significant pedestrian activity as indicated by worn paths located within the City ROW adjacent to the roadway. Similar types of residential development has occurred along Fondren, worn paths lead to discontinuous sidewalk indicating pedestrians are walking to the Abiding Faith Baptist Church and Hunters Glen elementary school.
This TEP project will fund the construction of five foot wide concrete sidewalk along two Cullen and Fondren to accommodate these local pedestrian trips. All construction will take place within the existing City of Houston Street Right-of-Way, no additional land will need to be purchased or dedicated. The project locations include: Cullen: Almeda Genoa to Beltway 8 and Fondren: West Fuqua to Beltway 8. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
Uptown Waterwall (Total cost: $1,640,509)
The proposed Uptown Waterwall Enhancement project will provide pedestrian access (sidewalks, ADA ramps) and safety improvements (pedestrian scale lighting) and street furniture to one of the Houston area's most iconic urban public outdoor spaces, which lies on Post Oak Boulevard, near IH-610, US 59, Westheimer, and Richmond Avenue. The Uptown Development Authority (UDA) has acquired the Waterwall property, which was originally developed by Hines Corporation in conjunction with the Transco (now Williams) tower site. The Waterwall was designed by renowned International Architect Philip Johnson.The Waterwall's geographic location near the Galleria, along Post Oak Boulevard, complements Uptown Houston's Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) based Pedestrian-Transit Masterplan, which focuses on transforming Uptown to a walkable, transit oriented mixed use center. The Waterwall is a public space anchor of this plan. Access improvements around transit stops near the Waterwall including Hidalgo Street, West Road and Post Oak are proposed. On site improvements to the Waterwall property include pedestrian scale lighting, new landscaping, irrigation repairs, new sidewalks (widen from 4' to 8'), walkway repairs, street furniture (benches, trash receptacles). The proposed METRO light rail transit (LRT) will not adversely affect the Waterwall site. Uptown and METRO have established the right-o-way impacts which are minimal, but will require the ROW line and sidewalk to be relocated at that time. Only 6,420 SF of ROW would be impacted. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
US 59 Intersections (Total cost: $1,575,235)
UKMD's master plan includes plans to improve pedestrian connections and amenities along four streets on both sides of Highway 59, including Shepherd, Greenbriar, Kirby and Buffalo Speedway. The proposed project would allow for the improvements north and south of the freeway to be connected by a safe, well-lit pedestrian corridor beneath the Highway 59 overpass. The current state of the project locations, as seen in figures one through four in Attachement A, could tend to leave pedestrians feeling less than secure due to the lack of a defined sidewalk and insufficient lighting. The proposed project will address each of these issues, resulting in a safer, more equitable and fluid pedestrian experience for those crossing beneath Highway 59. If approved, federal funds would pay for 80 percent of the project.
 
UKMD is in the middle of an aggressive capital improvement program that is addressing issues ranging from stormwater drainage improvements and roadway reconstruction to widening sidewalks and enhancing pedestrian connectivity. The pedestrian related improvements include upgrades such as six ft. sidewalks, improved ADA access, landscaping, pedestrian lighting, crosswalk enhancements and other pedestrian amenities. These treatments are being applied to 13 corridors throughout the district including four major n/s streets. The target corridors that serve as the backbone of connectivity in the district each cross under beneath Highway 59, a freeway some 10 lanes wide at these locations. 
 
The project has completed conceptual design; and will be ready for advanced planning in early 2010. Construction contracts will be let as soon as all necessary approvals are met.

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