At its May 14 teleconference, the board of directors of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority and Tax Increment Zone No. 10 (TIRZ) received a significant status change on the Kingwood Drive-Woodland Hills Intersection Project. Although still in the speculative stages of development, the change could result in expanding it from a traffic mobility project to one that includes major flood mitigation.
Ralph De Leon, administrator for the authority, explained the situation as he summarized the differences between last year’s Five-Year Capital Improvement Budget (CIP) compared to this year’s CIP. One of the changes is to the planned cost to improve the traffic flow at Kingwood Drive and Woodland Hills Drive as part of the overall Kingwood Mobility Project.
“This is pretty important. Last year it was $3.1 million. This year it is $13 million. That project has grown into a significant drainage project,” De Leon said. He explained that as the project scope and specifications were developed, it was determined that they could not get the intersection to drain with the originally planned improvements of turn lanes and traffic signals unless they address the issue of flooding during significant rain events.
“That led to a series of diagnostics and it is still in that diagnostic stage, but right now you have considerable pooling on Kingwood Drive at that intersection. It becomes impassable during a high-water event,” De Leon said. He described the seriousness of the situation by pointing out the depth of the pooling is about 2-and-a-half feet.
He continued, “It turns out that the water that is accumulating on Kingwood Drive is gravity flowing through the adjacent neighborhoods toward the south of Kingwood Drive and to the west of Woodland Hills.” He described it as water flooding into the front door of the intersection and flowing out the back door.
“So we are turning that project into a more comprehensive project in terms of flood mediation. That means we are going to have to add additional value to the project and have the engineers come up with a creative design to address it,” De Leon said.
He said everyone involved realized it is probably not the best solution to wait until the water accumulates on Kingwood Drive to capture it. It initially seems to make more sense to go back a block or two into the subdivisions and capture it there before it pools up onto the roadway and surrounding areas. The next question is what one does with the water once it is captured.
“This gets really complicated. One of the things we are going to have to add is a significant amount of drainage to the west. Currently a portion of the drainage at Woodland Hills and Kingwood Drive goes north into Bear Branch, a portion of the drainage goes to the east into Kingwood Lakes, and a small amount goes west to the Kingwood diversion ditch. What we are finding is we can’t add any more water that goes to the north or not much more without causing problems downstream. We can’t have any going east as it is a private lake and not retention, so we are going to have to take our water west to Kingwood Drive and we are studying that,” De Leon said. He noted the Harris County Flood Control District has recently confirmed they have existing capacity in the Kingwood diversion ditch at Kingwood Drive to handle the anticipated requirements.
De Leon emphasized this is all subject to change at this point and nothing has been formally proposed yet, but they are currently looking at capturing the water and moving it down Kingwood Drive to the drainage ditch in a pipe that could be up to 66 inches in diameter. He explained that to do that, it would require taking it down the Kingwood Drive median strip which would require significant clearing of vegetation or taking it down one of the roadways which would require moving the roadway back.
Tom Broad asked if land would have to be acquired at Kingwood Drive and Woodland Hills Drive. De Leon answered yes and pointed out some land will likely have to be acquired at the intersection in order to bring it up to current traffic code anyway given traffic signal placement requirements, pedestrian landing regulations and intersection turn radius requirements.
Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin asked if it would be necessary to dig up Kingwood Drive from Woodland Hills to the drainage ditch.
“We don’t know yet. Looking at the routing we have not gotten that far. The only thing we know at the current moment is that Harris County Flood Control said we could take more water back to the west,” Chairman Stan Sarman said and reemphasized this project, at this point, is only speculative.
Martin said, “OK, I am raising a serious yellow flag on this. I think we really need to study whether we need this. If it is about helping Kingwood Drive get out of the flood area that makes sense. If it is about protecting additional homes, that makes sense. But if it is just about mobility and creating a turning lane and you get no other advantages other than the movement of traffic, then I think we really need to look into it.”
In other related business, De Leon pointed out that the Northpark Overpass Project was now on schedule as planned. Thirty percent of its overall design work is completed at this point in the overall project timeline.
The next Lake Houston TIRZ directors meeting will be Thursday, June 11 at 8 a.m. Whether it will be by teleconference or at the Kingwood Community Center, 4102 Rustic Woods Drive, will be determined depending on the shelter-in-place guidelines in effect at that time.