At an informal meeting with its traffic engineering consultants Jan. 25, members of the Kingwood Drive mobility working group of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority and Tax Increment Zone No. 10 received a set of preliminary recommendations regarding Kingwood Drive. With Kingwood’s Northpark Drive improvements underway but seriously delayed by the impact of Hurricane Harvey, the Authority is beginning to focus on what can be done in the short term regarding traffic congestion on Kingwood Drive. This effort is in anticipation of major delays to the road’s major expansion plans.
As he had originally announced in the last Authority meeting Jan. 11, Chairman Stan Sarman explained the impact of Hurricane Harvey. In addition to its impact on the Northpark Drive mobility project, which is now getting underway, anticipated reductions in the revenue streams going forward beyond the Northpark Project are yet to be determined. Lower property values and tax base revenues may take years to recover. As a result, the long-term Kingwood Drive mobility project to widen it to six lanes will likely be delayed for up to several years.
“Now that we know that Kingwood Drive is way out in the future, we do need to look at these intersections and to the extent that the Authority can afford to, we will start doing some of the intersections in the next year or so,” Sarman said.
Authority Manager Ralph Deleon clarified the reason for the working group meeting with its consultants.
“We can’t offer to do them all at one time but what we are doing is looking at our recommendations that were in the Kingwood Mobility Study to determine if those recommendations are still valid today,” he said. Deleon explained that this preliminary engineering study by the Walter P. Moore traffic engineering firm was meant to confirm or adjust the original recommendations and update them as necessary.
With that caveat, Rachel Ray-Welch and Randolph Schulze of Moore Engineering presented an updated analysis of each of the six intersections from the original mobility study. They explained that they resurveyed traffic volumes and flows during the first half of December 2017 while schools were in session. Measurements were made for both through traffic and traffic making left and right turns at each intersection during the a.m. and p.m. peak traffic periods.
The six intersections on Kingwood Drive moving east to west are: Willow Terrace Drive, Woodland Hills Drive, Trailwood Village Drive turning to the south and Woodland Grove turning to the north, Green Oak Drive, Chestnut Ridge, and Royal Forest Drive.
The result was a set of very preliminary recommendations by the Moore engineers for each intersection. They include the addition of a turn lane in some cases, the lengthening of an existing turn lane in other cases, the retiming of stop light sequences in some cases, and no change from existing practice in other cases.
Schulze pointed out that these recommendations had not yet taken into consideration other factors that must be considered, such as the overall impact of making a change at one intersection to the overall traffic flow through the length of Kingwood Drive.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Deleon summed up his take on the overall situation.
“We are just looking at other assumptions and other scenarios to see how fast and how soon we can afford to do the project,” he said.
The group agreed and concluded that given the delays to the major improvement plan, it made sense for the Authority to move forward with these projects and to prioritize their various parts based on both cost and need.
As a result, the prioritization of Kingwood Drive’s Mobility Study intersection projects and the decisions to move forward on them as money becomes available will be a major agenda item in upcoming Authority meetings. The next meeting of the Lake Houston Authority directors will be March 8 at 8 a.m. at the Kingwood Community Center, 4102 Rustic Woods Drive.