Drivers in Kingwood will see a significant drop in commute times after a proposed improvement to Northpark is completed, Jim Webb told the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (also known as TIRZ 10) board Sept. 29. Webb, a consultant to the authority and owner of The Goodman Corporation, performed an analysis of available traffic information and presented a report to the board.
The report was created to support documentation for Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) funding toward the Northpark Drive Mobility Improvement Project, a project being led by the authority.
One minute per trip will be saved, or an average of 14.5 hours per year, for the average Northpark driver.
Northpark, Webb said, was designed to handle 27,200 trips per day. Currently, 40,000 are being made, an obvious strain on the corridor. By 2030, with no traffic modifications, Northpark would see 49,000 trips.
The authority is on track with a $55 million project that will expand Northpark, most significantly from U.S. 59 to Woodland Hills Drive, with a planned overpass carrying cars over the existing railroad tracks. The road will be expanded to six lanes as well.
Webb said the project will affect Kingwood Drive commuters too, by more drivers taking Northpark. Kingwood Drive commuters will save 3.5 hours per year. Webb provided an explanatory graphic that highlights his research.
Daily vehicle hours traveled (VHT) savings are projected to be 284.3 in 2020 and 191.6 in 2030 for Northpark Drive. Kingwood Drive would see dramatic savings of 267.9 VHT in 2020 and 272.2 in 2030.
The figures include the anticipated significant reduction of travel times, factoring out waiting for trains to pass. Webb explained that this is a difficult metric to create, since Union Pacific records don’t translate into the formula easily. Webb said that the trip time will definitely decrease after waiting for trains to pass is factored in, a task he is continuing to determine.
The total value of time saved to Kingwood-area commuters is $79 million.
"This data shows that the Northpark Drive Mobility Improvement Project will be a game-changer with regard to congestion for those residing in the Kingwood area," said Stan Sarman, chairman of the authority. "The 'built scenario' also supports research in the Kingwood Area Mobility Study about both congestion and vehicular crashes. It's a huge quality-of-life issue."
Safety would also improve on both roads. The improvements will reduce crashes by 15 percent and the value of that reduction is estimated at $15 million. Crash data records over a five-year period from 2011-2015 show 330 crashes, with 45 in 2011 and 71 in 2012. Crash rates are determined by figuring the number of crashes per 100 million VMT over traffic volumes, according to Edminster, Henshaw, Russ and Associates, the engineering firm hired to manage the project.
The crash rate for Northpark Drive is 211.2 crashes per 100 million miles, significantly higher (68.9 percent) than the statewide average of 125.01 per 100 million. In May 2015, Houston City Council Member Dave Martin said, the Kingwood Area Mobility Study indicated that crash rates for major corridors in the Kingwood area are much higher than the statewide average rate.
According to the TxDOT Highway Safety Improvement Plan Work Code, the addition of one travel lane in each direction can reduce 28 percent of crashes.
Henshaw Russ also said the addition of the overpass at Loop 494 at Northpark will reduce the number of crashes at several conflict points on Northpark, including driveways to commercial businesses.
"The crash data supports the need for the Northpark Drive Improvement Project, which will greatly reduce the number of vehicle crashes within the expansion boundaries, including at State Highway 494 near the Union Pacific Railroad," said Martin. "Kingwood area drivers will be safer with the proposed improvements to Northpark Drive, and the monetized safety benefits are substantial."
Edminster, Henshaw and Russ provided the following information:
The crash rate for Northpark Drive in the study area is 211.2 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is significantly higher (68.9 percent) than the statewide average rate of 125.01 crashes per 100 million VMT for a four-lane facility.
The study reports the following proposed Northpark Drive improvements would result in significant benefits.
The addition of one through lane each way can reduce by 28 percent the number of crashes that share similar vehicle movement and manner of collision attributes (side-by-side, rear-end).
The addition of an overpass and grade separation at State Highway 494 and Northpark Drive will reduce the number of crashes at conflict points along Northpark Drive, including numerous commercial driveways.
Financial benefits can be factored in for the reduction in the number of motor vehicle crashes. Using TxDOT metrics that establish the monetized value of crash types (based on severity) and the estimated reduction in crashes based on the proposed improvements, it is estimated that the 20-year safety benefit of the proposed improvement would be nearly $15 million in 2016 dollars.
Using baseline congestion data from H-GAC with existing conditions for a "no build scenario," the study demonstrates that Northpark Drive is currently operating over capacity with nearly 40,000 trips per day. The Volume to Capacity (V/C) ratio was 1.47 in 2015, rising to 1.80 in 2030 with a "no-build scenario."
Based on the results of the H-GAC Travel Demand Model, the Northpark Drive Mobility Improvement Project will significantly reduce congestion and travel times and result in a substantial economic benefit.
The volume to capacity (V/C) ratios along Northpark Drive are reduced from 1.47 to 0.84 in 2020 and 1.75 to 0.89 in 2030, which are significant.
Daily VHT savings are projected to be 284.3 in 2020 and 191.6 in 2030 for Northpark Drive. Kingwood Drive would also see dramatic savings of 267.9 VHT in 2020 and 272.2 in 2030.
The peak-hour travel time reduction data shows that the "built scenario" would reduce travel times in excess of one minute per trip along Northpark Drive during both the morning and afternoon peak periods. If an individual utilized Northpark Drive twice a day in peak hours, annual travel time would be reduced by approximately 14.5 hours per year in 2020 and 14 hours per year in 2030. Travel times will also be reduced for Kingwood Drive (3.6 hours in 2020 and 4.0 hours in 2030).
Travel time savings can be monetized using an H-GAC metric that the average value of travel time in the region is $16.10 per hour. When projected from 2020 to 2040, the monetized value for Northpark Drive is nearly $39.7 million in 2016 dollars, and the monetized value for Kingwood Drive is nearly $35.3 million. Total benefits for Northpark Drive, Kingwood Drive and Ford Road are $78.9 million in 2016 dollars.
In May 2015, the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority, in conjunction with the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department, commissioned the Kingwood Area Mobility Study to analyze the area's transportation needs and deficiencies and assess potential solutions. Based on data analysis, future traffic projections, and public input, a list of recommended improvements was created, which included the expansion of Northpark Drive.