The city of Fulshear and four other local entities want to redevelop 31 miles of abandoned railroad along FM 1093 to create a nature-focused trail system—but officials are cautious that the project won’t conflict with multimillion dollar, multiagency works to enhance Westpark Tollway thoroughfare.

The big picture

At a June 13 meeting, Fort Bend County commissioners approved the Toll Road Authority leasing right of way to the 1093 Rails to Trails Local Government Corporation—for the construction, development, maintenance, and use of a recreational and nature preserving park and trail system.

The 1093 Rails to Trails LGC includes:
This 1093 Rails to Trails concept map shows potential trailheads in the areas representing the local government corporations. (Courtesy 1093 Rails to Trails LGC)

The FBCTRA leased the right-of-way only until the agency extends Westpark Tollway, Deputy Operating Officer Lisa Castañeda said in an email. The design phase of the extension costs $7 million and is anticipated to conclude by the end of summer, Community Impact previously reported.

Zooming in on the trail

The train tracks run mostly parallel to FM 1093, one of the major thoroughfares in the Fulshear area. They used to be part of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, which Fulshear City Manager Zach Goodlander said helped to establish the city. Goodlander is a board member of the 1093 Rails to Trails LGC representing the city of Fulshear.

Goodlander said the group's chief objective is to preserve some semblance of the railroad’s history and make pedestrian improvements, ideally with sidewalks for cyclists and residents of the neighborhoods the trail would intersect.

The Rails to Trails group cites social, environmental, recreational and economic benefits to the multicounty trail system. According to its website, the trail could provide an alternative to congested streets and highways, reduce vehicle miles to improve air quality, and improve each coinciding community's livability and general health.

The project is in its conceptual phase, and public meetings have been held in Eagle Lake, Wallis and Fulshear to get input on the possible trail, Goodlander said.

“We’re trying to think through what the public wants, what constraints are we under through the tollway, cost, grant opportunities and then just aesthetically, what do we desire,” Goodlander said.

No timeline has been set for its construction, but the Houston-Galveston Area Council connected the group with the National Park Service for potential grant opportunities, Goodlander said.

On the other hand

Goodlander said the trail system is a very exciting possibility for Fulshear’s continued development, but that it does come with some caveats.

“It is a way to promote pedestrian connectivity between neighborhoods, but also a way to demonstrate the history of the railroad that made the community of Fulshear what it is,” Goodlander said. “But in doing those things, we need to be cautious of costs and the constraints of the eventual [Westpark] Tollway.”

However, there may be potential to create continuity from the trail to the tollway extension through collaboration with the Texas Department of Transportation, Goodlander said.

"Thinking about hypotheticals, rather than us utilizing the median, [we could] work with TxDOT on their side so that it's a little bit removed from traffic to make those sidewalks a little bit wider," he said.

Quote of note

"Because we are the most eastern of these entities, we're facing the tollway coming in sooner rather than later," Goodlander said. "So at the same time we have to be strategic and make sure we're not spending dollars to make pedestrian improvements in an area where it'll get immediately torn up in the near future for the tollway."