Residents shoot down proposed median swale along El Dorado

This is a rendering of what the median swale would have looked like along El Dorado Boulevard. (Rendering courtesy city of Houston)
This is a rendering of what the median swale would have looked like along El Dorado Boulevard. (Rendering courtesy city of Houston)

This is a rendering of what the median swale would have looked like along El Dorado Boulevard. (Rendering courtesy city of Houston)

The El Dorado Boulevard widening project between Clear Lake City Boulevard and Horsepen Bayou will not include a median swale, or ditch, following overwhelming opposition to the idea.

Over the summer, Clear Lake residents were surveyed about the idea of installing a 2-foot-deep swale along the 17-foot-wide median throughout the 1-mile project length. A swale is a shallow ditch that helps drain stormwater and provides an area to plant new trees.

Of the more than 1,500 residents who responded to the survey, over 80% opposed a swale, according to a press release from Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin. Instead, the project will include in-ground detention to address drainage concerns.

“The residents expressed concerns with the aesthetics and future maintenance needs of a median swale,” Milton Rahman, the deputy chief of staff for Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, said in an email. ”A survey was conducted and showed the community preferred the in-ground detention option, so plans were changed to honor that.”

In-ground detention is more expensive than a swale, which is a common stormwater management technique because swales are fast and cheap to build. It is estimated the El Dorado project will cost $2.2 million more to include in-ground detention, Rahman said.


The in-ground detention will be installed under the hike and bike trail included in the widening project, “maintaining the existing community aesthetic,” the press release reads.

Martin identified $585,000 to help fund the increased project cost by delaying two stormwater-related projects in District E, which Martin represents. Another $165,000 will come from Houston’s general fund, according to the release.

Due to the addition of in-ground detention, the widening project has been split into two phases. Phase 1 includes expanding the additional lanes, median and bridge over Horsepen Bayou and will be complete in October. Phase 2 includes the hike and bike trail and in-ground detention and will begin when Phase 1 is completed, according to the release.

The widening project, originally expected to cost $6.6 million and be funded by Houston and Harris County, began in May. When complete, El Dorado will have four 12-foot lanes—two in each direction—with a 17-foot median.

Other than the swale issue, the widening project is proceeding normally, Rahman said.

“We are not aware of any other hiccups, and it’s our understanding that the residents are excited about the project being constructed,” he said. “Once it’s complete, it will improve traffic flow, increase safety and offer another mode of transportation because of the trail addition.”
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

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