By mid-to-late 2024, Kingwood residents and Lake Houston motorists who travel Northpark Drive can expect to drive on a safer, expanded and scenic Northpark Drive.
That was not exactly a promise, more of a prediction, from Stan Sarman, chair of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 10 (TIRZ No. 10) and the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA), as he spoke to the Rotary Club of Lake Houston Sept. 29.
Sarman and his six fellow members of TIRZ No. 10 are charged with upgrading and improving Northpark, which is one of just a couple of major thoroughfares through Kingwood.
“We thought we would have shovels in the ground earlier this year, but our problem is not with design but with acquisition of right of way,” Sarman explained. “It has been a long process to get the 25 parcels we need to begin.”
The authority has reached agreement on 11 of the parcels, seven are close to agreement and seven are in condemnation because those property owners are disputing the amount they would receive, according to Sarman.
Sarman is a retired engineer who was employed by engineering firms that built Kingwood’s original infrastructure, so he is familiar with the area’s foundation. TIRZs are special zones governed by the Texas Tax Code and created by city councils to generate incentives for both development and redevelopment.
TIRZ No. 10, one of 180 TIRZs found throughout Texas, was created in 1996 to replace several MUDs when Houston annexed Kingwood.
The seven trustees are volunteers appointed by the Houston City Council. The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority consists of the same seven members of the TIRZ No. 10 board and was created to issue bonds that will fund the rebuilding of Northpark, according to Sarman.
Sarman explained that the Northpark Drive Project was created because of the Kingwood Mobility Study commissioned by the TIRZ in 2015.
“It took two years to receive and tabulate the responses,” Sarman said. “We received more than 2,000 comments. That study is our marching orders.”
Two completed projects based on the results of the study were the intersection improvements on Kings Crossing and West Lake Houston Parkway and Northpark Drive at West Lake Houston Parkway.
The trustees now have turned their full attention to Northpark, which is divided into two projects:
- The Overpass Project from Interstate 69 to Russell Palmer Road which includes a six-lane, divided roadway with an overpass over the Union Pacific train tracks and Loop 494. It is funded from $15.4 million given by the city while the rest will be funded by bonds raised by the authority. Construction will take 30 months.
- The Reconstruction Project from Russell Palmer Road to Woodland Hills also includes a six-lane, divided roadway, new bridges at the Kingwood diversion ditch and Ben’s Branch, and a pedestrian tunnel near Glade Valley Road. It is funded with Federal Highway Commission funds.
Building the overpass over the train tracks and Loop 494 is a top priority, according to Sarman, because “Union Pacific currently runs 28 trains a day through the area and is planning a parallel track that will create even more train traffic,” Sarman explained.
In addition to circumventing the train traffic, the new Northpark will serve as the only dedicated all-weather event evacuation route for Kingwood, Sarman added.
“The middle ditch down Northpark will go,” he said, “replaced by an eight-foot storm sewer. We are designing it for a 500-year flood plan. The road will be high and dry.”
During construction, Sarman assured Rotarians that two lanes each way will always be open. Businesses along Northpark will have temporary entries allowing them to continue business.
Since TIRZ No. 10 has authority only for new construction, Kingwood Service Association will maintain all landscaping.
View the landscaping, trees and water features by taking a virtual ride down the “new” Northpark Drive in a video simulation on the authority’s webpage. The page also gives an overview of the two projects, their budgets, fact sheets and the authority’s most recent board meeting minutes, lakehoustonracom.