Phase 1 of the project—called the Northpark Drive Overpass Project—is expected to break ground in December. It includes expanding the road from four to six lanes between Hwy. 59 and Russell Palmer Road and adding an overpass over the Union Pacific Corp. railroad.
Phase 1 is funded by the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority—which oversees property tax revenue collected in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10—as well as about $15.5 million from the city of Houston. Phase 2, set to start in 2023, spans from Russell Palmer to Woodland Hills Drive.
Ralph De Leon, LHRA and TIRZ administrator, said the project will start with lane expansions. After that, construction will begin on the feeder roads. The final portion of the project focuses on the overpass.
The $39.9 million project also includes installing new landscaping and 10-foot pathways on the north and south sides of the road, according to landscaping designs from M2L Associates Inc. The draft designs also included two ponds on the north and south sides of the roadway—similar to the ponds on either side of Kingwood Drive.
LHRA board chairman Stan Sarman said the overpass project not only aims to reduce congestion, enhance safety and bypass train traffic at the railroad crossing, but it will hopefully help with flooding along the corridor.
“The elevated section, of course, will help with emergency access and ingress and egress with traffic when there is a severe flooding condition,” Sarman said.
Kingwood resident Diane Cooper said she is excited that the overpass will help eliminate congestion at the railroad, but she is concerned evacuations in flood events could be hindered. Cooper said the intersection of the Hwy. 59 feeder road and Northpark Drive became impassable during the May 7-9 rainstorm—and the current Northpark Drive designs do not include raising the roadway at the feeder road.
"We are still going to have an access onto a highway issue for flood event evacuation, but it gets us one step closer," she said.
De Leon said he does not believe the current designs keep drivers from getting to safety during floods; however, a drainage study for the project is set to be completed in the fall, so De Leon said the LHRA will have a better idea of drainage areas of focus then.
"This isn't actually showing ... everything we're going to do at this point," he said. "This is simply the draft as of today's date—it still hasn't been completely refined."
LHRA officials said the meeting was the first of two open houses that will take place regarding the first phase of the project. LHRA is asking the community to submit comments until March 1 on all aspects of the project. Residents can mail comments to the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority at 3200 Southwest Freeway, Ste. 2600, Houston, Texas, 77027 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.