Two years after the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority completed the Kingwood Area Mobility Study, the first of six priority transportation projects identified will begin construction this summer in Kingwood.
The study concluded that intersection improvements should be the No. 1 priority for Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10—which collects a portion of Kingwood tax revenue to ignite development through infrastructure improvements.
The LHRA, a subsidiary of the TIRZ, will begin funding intersection improvements before shifting its focus toward the expansions of major thoroughfares, such as Northpark Drive, in 2019.
“When we finished the study, a lot of residents said they hoped the study was not put on a shelf somewhere,” said Stan Sarman, chairman of TIRZ 10 and the LHRA. “And we said ‘absolutely.’”
Improving Crossroads, Expansions
The TIRZ combined the first two intersections in need of improvement—West Lake Houston Parkway at Northpark Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway at Kings Crossing Drive—into one project that will go out for bids in June, Sarman said. Construction on the $1.2 million intersection improvements could begin in August, Sarman said.
The TIRZ will fund construction on two of the 11 identified intersection improvements every year, he said.
“The plan is, as we get money each year, to try and do one to three intersections in a fiscal year with the funds already available to the TIRZ,” Sarman said. “That way, the residents of Kingwood see the intersections they requested to be improved getting done.”
Northpark and Kingwood drives—the two major east-west thoroughfares in Kingwood—are currently over the capacity they were built for, causing gridlock during peak traffic times, Houston City Council Member Dave Martin said.
However, the city of Houston has focused its efforts toward the $60 million expansion of Northpark Drive from four lanes to six lanes between Hwy. 59 and Woodland Hills Drive.
“We always thought we would attack Kingwood Drive first … but after community meetings, it was pretty clear that 50 percent of residents didn’t want to touch [Kingwood Drive] at all,” Martin said.
Phase I of the Northpark Drive project will begin at Hwy. 59 and include an overpass across Loop 494, Sarman said.
Construction is expected to begin during the fourth quarter of 2018 or the first quarter of 2019, he said. Phase I will be funded through a $15.5 million contribution from the city of Houston and the TIRZ, which will incur debt that will be paid back through tax-increment funds.
The funds were earmarked for the Kingwood Drive expansion through the city’s 2018 Capital Improvement Plan. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed to shift the $15.5 million originally earmarked for Kingwood Drive on Northpark Drive after several discussions and a road trip through Kingwood with Martin during rush hour, Martin said.
For the first time, funds will be allocated for a road outside the city; much of the Northpark Drive expansion is outside of Houston city limits.
“We had the city attorney look at it to see if [funding the Northpark Drive expansion] is a benefit to taxpayers of the city of Houston and a benefit to the residents of Kingwood,” Martin said.
The TIRZ is seeking a spot on the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Improvement Program, which helps local entities compete for federal funds, for Phase II of the expansion.
The mobility study also called for a $60 million expansion of Kingwood Drive, which would include an overpass over Loop 494 as well as the expansion and extension of Woodland Hills Drive.
The expansion and extension of Woodland Hills Drive to Hamblen Road could provide an alternate entry and exit point and a third north-south thoroughfare for residents. The TIRZ is planning to allocate $600,000 in its budget to study the project in 2018, Sarman said. The TIRZ budget will be voted on at the TIRZ board meeting in June, he said.
However, once work is completed on Northpark Drive, officials will re-examine whether expanding major thoroughfares is still vital, Martin said.
“Let’s say we finish construction by 2021 on Northpark Drive,” Martin said. “Then you look at what mobility looks like and have another study done to see if the expansion of Kingwood Drive is necessary.”