Transportation is on the move in Lake Houston. Four area transportation experts recently outlined their visions for getting people around and about in a region recognized for some of the longest commutes and worst rush hour interchanges in Texas.
Devon Tiner with the Houston Airport System rightfully touted Bush InterContinental’s number one ranking as the best and cleanest in the United States.
Auturo Jackson with METRO Transportation Authority described METRO’s expansion into Humble and Kingwood in 2022.
Gonzalo Echeverria with McCord Development explained his vision for Lake Houston residents to walk, bike or scooter on trails connecting them to Generation Park, FM 1960, Humble and Kingwood without crossing any roads or major highways.
And Bryan Ruther with McCord Development outlined 14 major road projects currently underway in Lake Houston and listed the partnership’s top five dream roadway projects.
The four spoke virtually at Partnership Lake Houston’s annual state of transportation luncheon Oct. 21.
Bush was rated the best airport for the second year in a row by Skytrax, an international air transport rating organization. Other honors included cleanest airport and the COVID-19 excellence award. Hobby was named most improved airport, according to Tiner, who is assistant director for building standards at the system.
“Air travel restoration is a big focus for us,” Tiner said, “and we are seeing continuous growth since we were down to our lowest point in April 2020 when passenger traffic was down 95 percent.”
Fifteen months later, the airport system is down only 15 percent and Tiner projects they will reach pre-pandemic numbers again by 2023 or early 2024.
“We have been preparing for that upswing in passengers by continuing our infrastructure program to help us meet our vision which is to establish the airport system as a five-star global air service gateway,” Tiner said.
He also discussed the major renovations underway at the 50-year-old Terminal A including new restrooms, expansion of the airline gates, improved traffic lanes and the baggage and handling area.
“We also are replacing the Skyway Train System, which is approaching 25 years,” Tiner said. “This will replace the current system with a modern system that includes a new train operation center and control system.”
Tiner then described the system’s Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport, an FAA-licensed, urban commercial spaceport which will serve as a launch and landing site for suborbital, reusable launch vehicles.
“One of our first spaceport tenants is building the next lunar lander for NASA there,” he said. He also revealed the world’s first commercial space station will be built at the spaceport and that the system is working to train the aerospace workforce by collaborating with Rice, Texas A&M, Texas Southern University, San Jacinto College and University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Auturo Jackson revealed METRO will expand its METRO Lift program into Humble in 2022 serving seniors and those with disabilities. METRO Lift provides minivans as well as wheelchair accessible vans which can accommodate four persons in chairs.
“These individuals will be able to travel to businesses and services from Humble to the Houston-Harris County area and within Humble,” he said.
METRO Lift already is providing services only within Kingwood but will open it up so that Kingwood riders will no longer have to transfer at one of METRO’s transit centers but instead will be able to travel directly on METRO Lift services into Humble, Houston and Harris County.
“We think this is going to be a great opportunity to serve many riders who have been asking for this service,” said Jackson. who is vice president of specialized transit services for METRO. “Pre-pandemic, we were providing more than two million passenger trips a year. We are one of the largest transit services in the nation and the largest in Texas.”
Gonzalo Echeverria’s dream is to develop a trail system so that Generation Park residents can live work, shop, play and even get an education all within a 15- or 30-minute walk or bike ride.
Calling it micro mobility, he envisions that the Generation Park trail network will link residents to their workplace, restaurants, shopping, local parks, wooded trails and waterways.
Echeverria, who is director of design and planning for McCord Development, visualizes connecting all of Lake Houston since trail and bike systems can be found throughout the region. He already is looking into generating a system of trails from Summerwood and from Fall Creek to Summer Creek High School without crossing any major roads.
“We have a huge potential to connect to many things,” he said, “including Spring Creek in the northwest part of the county. It is the concept of the 15-minute city, which has been used by many cities, Paris and Melbourne for example, where residents can find most of what they need locally within a 15-minute drive or walk.”
There is a huge potential, Echeverria said, “ … to create a system that will enrich residents’ experiences.”
There are 14 major transportation construction projects underway in Lake Houston. They were outlined by Bryan Ruth who moderated the program and is senior director of land development for McCord Development and chair of the partnership’s transportation committee.
Widening Sorters Road to four lanes from FM 1314 to Northpark. Currently being bid.
Widening Northpark to six lanes from I-69 to Russell Palmer Road with an overpass over the railroad tracks. Start in early 2022.
Expansion of Loop 494 along Kingwood Drive. Completed in 2022.
Realignment study of Hamblen Road which could create another entry into Kingwood.
Concrete panel replacements along Kingwood Drive, Willow Terrace and West Lake Houston Parkway. All near completion.
Widening of FM 1960 from Humble to the Lake Houston Bridge. Completed by 2023.
Study of 1960 from Interstate 45 to Interstate 69 to improve traffic.
Widening Rankin Road from the railroad to Old Humble Road. Completed at the end of 2021.
Reconstruction of Timber Forest Drive from Eagle Springs Parkway to Madera Run is completed.
Expansion of Madera Run Parkway from Kings Parkway to Boundary Waters Lane is completed.
Timber Forest Drive extended over the railroad will be completed at the end of 2021.
Expansion study of Mesa Drive in the Fall Creek area will be completed at the end of 2021.
A feasibility study of widening of Lockwood Road from the Beltway to the railroad tracks. Completed in a few weeks.
Four lane expansion of West Lake Houston Parkway from Lockwood Road to North Lake Houston Parkway in Generation Park is complete.
Ruth and the Partnership’s Transportation Committee also have a wish list, five projects they would like to see completed:
Widening of Sorters McClellan from Northpark to Interstate 69.
Hamblen Road realigned and extended to Woodland Hills in Kingwood.
Woodland Hills extended from Kingwood across the San Jacinto River to Atascocita Road.
A road extended from Deerbrook Mall to Townsen Boulevard.
A direct connector from FM 1960 to Interstate 69 to avoid traffic signals along FM 1960.