Multiple transportation projects are taking shape in the Lake Houston area that officials say will improve mobility and address safety concerns as the area grapples with rapid growth.
Key north-south connections to Beltway 8 will begin construction before the end of 2016.
Meanwhile, repairs over the next few years on Kingwood’s major east-west thoroughfares—Northpark and Kingwood drives—are necessary to fix the neighborhood’s “eyesore” of an entrance, Houston Council Member Dave Martin said. Martin covers District E, which includes Kingwood and parts of Atascocita and Summerwood.
“We live in Kingwood because it is a great place with a lot of amenities, and we don’t want to ruin that. We want to add to it,” Martin said.
Harris County precincts 2 and 4 also have projects planned for completion over the next two years, including expanding Wilson Road and Woodland Hills Drive.
Both projects will be funded in part by the county’s $700 million road bond referendum approved by voters in 2015.
The funding will come available to precincts next year, said Jeremy Phillips, Harris County Precinct 2 senior director of infrastructure.
In May 2015, the city of Houston released its Kingwood Mobility Study where six projects were identified as top priorities. The widening of Kingwood and Northpark drives from four to six lanes from Hwy. 59 to Woodland Hills Drive were among those priorities.
The heavily traveled thoroughfares are safety concerns because both can be blocked by active railroad crossings at Loop 494, Martin said. All three fire stations in Kingwood are located east of Loop 494, he said.
“My biggest fear has always been the ‘what if,’” he said. “What if there is a major fire or accident on the west side of Hwy. 59 either at Lone Star College[-Kingwood] or the Kingwood Medical Center, and there was a train going down the track at the same time and you couldn’t get across the track? Life or death is a matter of seconds.”
Construction is projected to begin on the $60 million expansion of Northpark Drive in 2019. However, the project could begin sooner if federal grant funding is made available earlier, said Stan Sarman, Kingwood Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 chairman.
Funding will come in part from the city of Houston, the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority—which is a subsidiary of Kingwood TIRZ 10—and the Texas Department of Transportation as well as grants from the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Sarman said.
The city will learn how much funding it can receive from H-GAC before the end of 2017. In the meantime, the LHRA is planning to lay the ground work to secure the right of way needed on behalf of the city of Houston, Sarman said.
Sarman said the improvements being considered for the road include flood mitigation improvements at Bens Branch Drive and an overpass at Loop 494. He said because the project team is still applying for funds, the overall cost could change.
“The community will see benefits in faster and easier mobility as well as safety benefits, such as the improved pedestrian safety at Glade Valley Drive and the evacuation route,” Sarman said.
Work on Kingwood Drive would not begin until Northpark Drive is complete, Martin said. Simultaneous construction would be too costly and difficult, he said. The project team for Kingwood Drive is slated to start the design phase in early 2019, and plans could include changes similar to those at Northpark Drive.
In a joint project between Harris County precincts 2 and 4, the expansion and extension of Woodland Hills Drive is moving forward with a completion date of late 2017, Precinct 2 Communications Coordinator Amery Reid said.
Construction is expected to begin by the fourth quarter of 2016, she said. After two phases of construction, the roadway will be extended and expanded from Beltway 8 to Woodland Path Drive with a bridge over Williams Gully, Reid said.
The two-phased project could be complete by the end of 2017 and are needed to provide another access point to Beltway 8 in an area of continued explosive growth, Phillips said. The precinct completed a mobility study for the area in 2015, which identified Woodland Hills Drive as one of the more immediate areas of need.
“If you’ve ever been on West Lake Houston [Parkway] in the morning trying to turn onto the Beltway, it’s a nightmare,” Phillips said. “If you look at Wilson Road, it’s backed up as well so we think this will be a huge benefit to the community.”
In the southern region of the Lake Houston area, Precinct 4 plans to widen Wilson Road into a four-lane concrete boulevard with a drainage system and sidewalk from Park Lakes Elementary to Viscaro Lane, which is between Atascocita Road and Beltway 8.
The project could reach design phase Sept. 13 pending approval from the Commissioners Court, said Pamela Rocchi, director of the Harris County precinct 4 capital improvement projects division.
“[The project] will mitigate the traffic congestion and provide a safer travel route that will minimize current traffic delays,” she said.