At the May 14 Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority board of directors meeting, LHRA directors reviewed and discussed the fiscal year 2020-21 draft budget ahead of the official budget meeting in June.

Some costs and timelines associated with long-term mobility projects on the authority’s five-year capital improvement project budget were also revised. Projects such as the Northpark Drive Overpass Project, the Kingwood Drive and Woodland Hills Drive intersection improvements, and the Mills Branch Drive Reconstruction Project will have to be modified in the budget. The LHRA funds its budget through property tax revenue collected in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 in Kingwood.

Northpark Drive cost increases

The price of the Northpark Drive Overpass Project, which is Phase 1 of a larger Northpark Drive expansion, increased from $39.9 million to $46.6 million due to detention requirements, said Ralph De Leon, LHRA and TIRZ administrator. The project is set to break ground in 2021 and will expand the road from four to six lanes between Hwy. 59 and Russell Palmer Road and create an overpass over the Union Pacific rail line.

“We needed to add more value in there to provide for more money for inline detention,” De Leon said.

Meanwhile, Phase 2 of the Northpark Drive project—called the Northpark Drive Reconstruction Project—also had its cost increased slightly to $48.4 million due to inflation, De Leon said. However, De Leon said the LHRA’s $28.4 million grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council for Phase 2 will also be increased to $34 million due to the consumer price index.

Intersection improvements

An intersection improvement project at Kingwood Drive and Woodland Hills Drive will also cost more than the $3.2 million originally allocated. An additional almost $10 million has been allocated toward the project, taking the new budgeted amount to $13.1 million.

De Leon said the cost increase is due to extensive drainage work needed to improve the intersection.

"Anytime you touch a road, you have to bring it to code," he said.

De Leon said water pools at the intersection during rain events, so engineers are considering what can be done to either stop and divert water before it reaches the intersection, or divert water away from the intersection once it arrives.

“We're turning that project into a more comprehensive project in terms of flood remediation, and so we're going to have to add additional value to the project to give our engineers the ability to come up with a creative design that will address that,” he said.

Walter P. Moore Senior Associate Rachel Ray-Welsh said her company, which was hired to engineer the intersection project, believes the project will ultimately be less than $13.1 million.

“I don’t think that this improvement that Ralph is discussing is going to cost $13 million, but we don’t have an estimate at this point of what it is going to cost,” she said.

Mills Branch delay

Due to the cost increases for several other projects, the Mills Branch Drive Reconstruction Project has been removed from the LHRA's 2020-25 capital improvement project budget. The $20.8 million project was supposed to involve reconstructing the road between Northpark Drive and Kingwood Drive and improving sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and traffic signals, per the LHRA's board packet.

The FY 2020-21 budget will be brought to LHRA directors for approval at the next meeting June 11.