At the LHRA board of directors meeting Sept. 24, board Chair Stan Sarman said the authority is moving through the final design and land acquisition process for Phase 1 of the project, known as the Northpark Drive overpass project. Sarman said the right of way and easement acquisition process has been slower than he expected.
"There's a lot of discussion going on every week about these parcels and trying to make sure they are moving forward," he said. "Obviously, without acquiring these right of ways, we can't start construction. So that's a critical element there."
The $46.6 million overpass project, which is expected to break ground in 2021, will expand the road from four to six lanes between Hwy. 59 and Russell Palmer Road and add an overpass over the Union Pacific Corp. railroad. Phase 1 is funded by the LHRA—which oversees property tax revenue collected in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 in Kingwood—as well as the city of Houston.
Although construction on Phase 1 has not begun, consultants for the LHRA must also soon begin designing the reconstruction project to remain eligible for a federal grant awarded to the authority last year.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council granted the authority $34 million last March to help pay for the $48.4 million reconstruction project. The project will expand the road from four to six lanes between Russell Palmer Road and Woodland Hills Drive.
"We've gotten concurrence from [the Texas Department of Transportation] that we can go ahead and start—hopefully by the first of the year—the preliminary work and getting started on the design of this," Sarman said.
LHRA and TIRZ administrator Ralph De Leon said consultants are required to begin designing the project two years prior to receiving the grant dollars, which are programmed to be distributed in 2023. Leon said if the overpass project bids in spring 2021 and takes 24-36 months to complete, it will likely still be under construction when contractors start on the eastern portion of the project.
Other agenda items:
- Harris County Flood Control District officials also updated the board on the Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis, a $700,000 study determining the capacity of Kingwood’s channels, which began last September. Gary Bezemek, the feasibility studies department manager at the district, said the HCFCD hopes to hold a public meeting in October. He said the meeting will be held virtually, and there will be time allotted for public comments.