As the city of West University Place turned 100 years old Jan. 2, city officials prepared to embark on a number of major projects, including a drainage project on the city’s western side that Mayor Susan Sample called the most significant infrastructure investment in the city’s history.

The impact

Thirteen-year resident Jim Marshall said he credits West U officials’ proactive measures on flood mitigation projects as the reason why his home wasn’t flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“Flooding is top of mind for all of us. ... We definitely saw the impacts of overwhelming the drainage system,” Marshall said. “[City officials] have been very good at partnering with other government agencies to continue to try and find ways to improve infrastructure. Some of that has already either been completed or is under work now where you’ve got this ongoing construction in West U.”

The full story

In 2019, two years after Hurricane Harvey flooded 116 West U homes, city officials completed a drainage modeling study that found existing conditions in the majority of the city had limited drainage capacity. Various parts of the drainage system could not maintain what is needed for a rainfall that occurs once every two years on average. The results prompted city leaders to seek improvements.

The west side drainage project, set to begin in 2025, will entail installing a new storm sewer trunkline along the west side of the city that would help more efficiently carry water from existing storm sewers to Brays Bayou, City Manager Dave Beach said.

In addition to the west side drainage project, similar work is also underway on the east side of the city, and future plans involve rehabilitating Poor Farm Ditch.

West Side Drainage Project

Timeline: Design for the Phase 1 began spring 2024; construction anticipated for 2025 to last for 6+ years

Details: The multiyear, multiphase project will install a new storm sewer trunkline along the west side of the city that would help more efficiently carry water from existing storm sewers to Brays Bayou.

East Side Drainage Project

Timeline: Phase 1 construction: April 2023-May 2024; Phase 2 construction: May 2024-TBD based once March 2024 contract bids are complete

Details: Phase 1: Paving and drainage upgrades along University Boulevard from Buffalo Speedway to Kirby Drive. Phase 2: Paving and drainage upgrades along portions of Wakeforest Avenue (Plumb Street to Pemberton Street), Rice Boulevard (Wakeforest Avenue to Kirby Drive) and Duke Street (Buffalo Speedway to Wakeforest Avenue).

Poor Farm Ditch

Timeline: Construction anticipated in early 2025-TBD

Details: Harris County Flood Control is overseeing construction that involves West U and Southside Place officials. The project will rehabilitate Poor Farm Ditch’s watershed between Bellaire and University Boulevard to address its failing concrete lining.

What residents should know

West University Place’s Public Works Director Danny Cameron said the west side drainage project benefits current and future drainage systems. For storms that are expected to occur once every 100 years on average, streets and sidewalks are meant to become part of the drainage system, he said.

For every 1 inch in reduction of floodwater for a typical lot, residents would see a roughly 6-foot lateral shift, Beach said, meaning the water would be roughly 6 feet farther away if a Hurricane Harvey-type event were to occur. Beach said the city’s goal is to always keep water in the city’s right of way so it doesn’t go onto resident property.

“The improvements will provide a consistency that residents will have that their property will be safe,” Beach said.

The timeline

Although construction isn’t anticipated until 2025 for Poor Farm Ditch and the west side drainage project, work will advance in some capacity for both of them in 2024.

A town hall will take place April 18 on Poor Farm Ditch with the Harris County Flood Control District, and design work is slated to begin in May on the west side drainage work.

Meanwhile, West U residents can expect street closures and reroutes for the duration of the east side drainage project.

Travel routes and temporary delays detailed on the city’s website for University Boulevard, from Buffalo Speedway to Kirby Drive, include transitioning two-way traffic to one-way eastbound. The westbound lane closed, and traffic was detoured via Rice Boulevard.
  • April 18: Town hall meeting on the Poor Farm Ditch Improvement Project
  • May: Phase 1 of east side drainage project completed; design work could begin on Phase 1 of west side drainage project
  • Summer: Construction to begin on Phase 2 of east side project