Election Priorities: infrastructure and growth
- Written by Bob Rehak
Last February, before the Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council presented its Capital Improvement Plan to the City of Houston, a young representative of the Public Works Department informed us that, “Kingwood is lucky. Your infrastructure isn’t very old.” As if on cue, three months later, an aging bridge washed out on Woodland Hills Drive, cutting off River Grove Park for four months. Ba-da-boom. Kingwood’s oldest villages will be turning 40 in a couple years. “Age” is a threat to Kingwood’s infrastructure, but an even bigger threat is the perception among many at City Hall that Kingwood is brand, spanking new and has no infrastructure issues. True, our infrastructure may be newer than elsewhere in the City. However, growth has stretched load-bearing capacity in many places. Kingwood has tripled in size since my family moved here in the early ‘80s. Our City Councilmember, Mike Sullivan, reports that he gets more complaints about traffic than anything else. It can take almost as long to get from Woodstream or Riverchase to U.S. Highway 59 as it takes to get from U.S. Highway 59 to downtown. If we are to remain a premier community, our infrastructure must keep pace with growth. An immutable law of biology states, “grow or go.” This applies to communities, too. I have heard City and County officials estimate that more than a thousand people per day are moving to the Houston region. Businesses generally move here because of low taxes; people move here because of jobs. It’s a pretty simple and successful formula…until growth overwhelms infrastructure and quality of life suffers. Then people look elsewhere for opportunity, even if it means paying slightly higher taxes. I know of one major international corporation that did just that. The company considered moving its headquarters to Kingwood several years ago. They would have brought hundreds of PhDs with high paying jobs to the community. Sadly, the company chose to move its headquarters to an area just outside of Houston where they felt the infrastructure would better support their needs. Luckily, Houston is waking up to the need to invest in infrastructure. In the last two years, a number of key projects advocated by the Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council for the better part of a decade have begun to move forward. A new larger library is under construction just south of Town Center. A new community center will be built on the site of the old library once it closes. North Park Drive will soon be widened to four lanes between West Lake Houston Parkway and Mills Branch Road, relieving a major bottleneck. A new pedestrian walkway will soon connect Kingwood’s trail network to Lone Star College on the west side of U.S. Highway 59. The City is expanding left and right turn lanes at numerous major intersections throughout Kingwood. The City replaced the bridge that washed out on Woodland Hills Drive and repaved a major portion of the thoroughfare itself. City Councilmember Sullivan deserves kudos for this and many other infrastructure improvements. Still, it seems, there will always be more to do to keep Kingwood vital and attractive. We need to upgrade the infrastructure in our sports parks. We need to widen and improve portions of Mills Branch Road. We need to begin working with Montgomery County to ensure that new upstream development doesn’t overwhelm the capacity of our drainage system. We need to find ways to expand the airport – the largest employer in our area – without creating noise pollution in Kingwood and other surrounding communities. We need to find a permanent, convenient, 24/7 recycling solution. We also need to add portable generators to sewage lift stations. During Hurricane Ike, sewers overflowed into Lake Houston – the City’s main drinking water supply – because there was no electricity to pump sewage to treatment stations. Even with these challenges, Kingwood offers a quality of life found nowhere else in Houston. Indeed, it’s hard to find another community to match Kingwood anywhere. One key to maintaining this quality will be voting in November. As you consider your vote, pay special attention to the mayoral and at-large candidates for City Council. They represent five potential allies for our District E council representative. These people could help swing key votes. Regardless of whether you share my priorities, please vote for candidates who are sensitive to Kingwood’s needs and geography in the fierce competition for dollars at City Hall. The Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council holds regular meetings. They are on the third Monday of every month at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2030 Shadow Rock, at 7 p.m. If you have ideas to improve Kingwood, the Council would love to hear them. You can also contact the Council through its Web site, KingwoodSNC.com. Bob Rehak is a 25-year Kingwood resident and business owner. Dixie Frantz will return on Nov. 11.