“Please be advised that the Houston Public Works Department along with Mayor Turner has made the decision to resume the project with the original design,” reads a Public Works notice sent to stakeholders on April 2.
The decision came amid the city’s heightened focus on the stay-at-home order and on responding to the coronavirus outbreak, but a specific reason was not provided for the decision.
The proposals envisioned a park-like green space and other traffic modifications. The area around Hawthorne, Holman, Bagby and Brazos streets was identified as a priority area for Houston’s Safer Streets initiative, endorsed by Mayor Sylvester Turner in 2018.
“We’re very disappointed. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Bill Marshall, president of the Westmoreland Civic Association, a neighborhood adjacent to the intersection. “It was always at the mayor’s discretion ... and with unemployment and wanting to keep construction crews working right now, that’s hard to argue with.”
The bridge was closed in July over concerns about falling debris. A $4 million reconstruction project began in October and removed the concrete deck with plans to replace it, but the project has been on hold since December. That work will resume in a matter of weeks, according to a statement from Public Works. An updated project timeline was not immediately available.
While backed by as many as 1,500 petitioners, the new proposals also drew concern from some residents and Midtown business owners over effects on congestion, access to businesses and homeless encampments.
“This would be a green space to nowhere,” said Gwyneth Williams, a resident of the Avondale section of Montrose for about 22 years who promoted opposition to the proposal. “And the city does not exactly have a great track record of maintaining, upkeeping and funding green spaces.”
Public Works had planned to extend the public input phase, hold more neighborhood meetings and then develop a final proposal based on the feedback.