Over 150 area residents attended the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA) informational Open House Feb. 6 at the Kingwood Community Center to learn about the Northpark Drive Overpass Project that is fast approaching.
In the formal presentation to introduce the project, Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin explained the basics of the project and its history of development.
“We started this project in 2013. We hope to finish it in this century,” he said and paused as laughter broke out in the room.
The Northpark Drive Overpass Project is the culmination of the original City of Houston capital improvement project assigned to improve Kingwood Drive mobility and that of the community in general. Martin said all surveys conducted for that project reflected a divided community on the issue of what to do. Half the people wanted to overhaul Kingwood Drive to handle the future and half were adamant about saving the trees so many consider essential to what Kingwood is all about. When the traffic studies indicated Northpark Drive with an overpass over the railroad tracks and Highway 494 could accomplish similar overall mobility improvements, it became the preferred project.
However, Martin explained the decision of how to fund the Northpark Project was the toughest part because this is basically a project by the City of Houston. Parts of Northpark Drive are outside the city in both Harris and Montgomery counties.
“You can’t use city project dollars for projects that are not in the City of Houston,” Martin said and explained how, using all of the mobility and demographic studies, they were able to demonstrate most of the people using the road were residents of Kingwood which is a part of the city. An agreement was developed between all the jurisdictions allowing the funding with city money to be possible.
Martin also outlined the objectives of the project. The first is mobility. Going from four lanes of traffic to six lanes and building the flyover at the railroad tracks provides for the needed mobility. The second is to improve safety, especially at the railroad tracks and intersection area when the railroad is eventually expanded from a one-track line to a two-track, north-south line. That will likely double the number of train crossings every day. Finally, the third objective is to provide a true evacuation route which Kingwood has never had.
“Kingwood Drive floods, Northpark floods, Ford Road floods, West Lake Houston Parkway floods. This project will elevate Northpark two feet above the 500-year flood plain and that will provide an evacuation route,” Martin said.
Both before and after the formal presentation, attendees were able to visit a number of tables and displays where large renderings and engineering drawings were displayed and where the various project engineers and managers were available to answer questions. Input and comment forms were provided to attendees.