The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 board got news they have been waiting for six years to hear.
“We will be funded,” said TIRZ Chairman Stan Sarman.
During the February board meeting, it was announced that the application submitted for funding had been missing crucial data and had been ranked poorly by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the funding entity for transportation projects in the Gulf Coast area.
But in the month since, Sarman, TIRZ manager Ralph Deleon and Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin met with H-GAC officials and resubmitted the application with complete information.
Sarman said, “I have good news. We received an updated listing of pending projects, and according to the latest data, we are scheduled to be funded.”
Sarman attributed the change in ranking to the inclusion of key traffic statistics that were omitted from the first application. He also said that of the 1,072 public comments received by the H-GAC (relating to all of the nearly 200 proposals), over 485 pertained to the Northpark project. Sarman said he thought that overwhelming public support made a difference in the new rankings.
Martin said previously that the Northpark project was the only project that received a letter of support from every single member of the Houston City Council as well as from Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Jim Webb, with the Goodman Corporation, whose firm had submitted the incomplete application, stood and praised Martin, in particular, for being the reason the project will be funded.
“If it not were for Dave Martin, this project would not happen. He is the reason. His efforts really made the difference in getting the funding,” Webb said.
The board spent a few minutes in reflection on how long they have been working on the Northpark project – more than six years, according to Martin. He remarked that it has been amazing to see the difference in how quickly, or how slowly, something gets done when it is the private sector or government managing it. Optimistically, the project should “turn dirt” in 2020.
The Northpark Project is split into two phases. Phase One is the western portion, which includes improvements from U.S. Highway 59 to approximately Russell Palmer Road. The cost, $38.8 million, will be funded through City of Houston funds and money raised by a bond issued by the TIRZ. Phase Two, which costs $47.4 million, is from Russell Palmer to Woodland Hills and includes realignment and significant traffic improvements. It will be funded with money from the H-GAC. TxDOT will manage both projects.
Deleon said the TIRZ can expect a city council ordinance to pass soon to initiate the initial funding.
The board also approved an interlocal agreement with the Harris County Flood Control District. The TIRZ is contributing $100,000 toward a study of ditches and drainage in the Kingwood area. Since the January election, when a new county judge was elected, there has been much discussion about “equity” playing a role in the distribution of the multi-millions in flood relief approved by county voters. Martin said he was anticipating a meeting with County Commissioner Adrian Garcia to discuss how the new Democrat majority on the court views equity in the distribution of the bond money.
Rachel Ray-Welsh, with engineering firm Walter P. Moore, provided yet another update on the turn signals at W. Lake Houston Pkwy. and Northpark Drive. While she stated in February the signals would be on soon, the City of Houston decided they will not be coming on until the end of May, at the earliest. City officials decided that the signals must wait until the back-ordered arms arrive. Ray-Welsh briefly discussed the two ongoing intersection improvements: Kingwood Drive at Willow Terrace and Kingwood Drive at Woodland Hills. Both intersections are under study with significant improvements slated in upcoming months.
Woodland Hills will get dedicated right turns in both east and west directions and the intersection will be widened.
Dedicated right turns east and west will also go in at Willow Terrace, along with new signals, repaving and sidewalks on both sides.
The TIRZ next meets at 8 a.m. at the Kingwood Community Center April 11.