On July 28, 2021, Stan Sarman, chairman of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA), discussed details of the Northpark Drive expansion project with a group of Kingwood executives. The story below is based on his comments.
Improvements Motivated by Traffic Congestion, Railroad Delays and Flooding
The severely congested Northpark Drive will expand from four lanes to six between US59 and Woodland Hills Drive. As part of that project:
- A bridge will also be built over the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks that parallel 494.
- New bridges will also likely be built over Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch near Woodridge Parkway to provide emergency access during high water events.
- The road will be elevated where it usually floods between Glade Valley and the Diversion Ditch.
- Service roads will be added to handle traffic not using the bridge over the railroad tracks.
- Ten foot wide sidewalks will be added along the entire length of the project to accommodate both pedestrian and bicycle traffic – on both sides of the street.
- Detention ponds will be added to the entries at 59.
- Landscaping will further beautify the entries and medians.
- All drainage will comply with new Atlas-14 requirements.
In 2019, the area between the Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch flooded badly – twice – damaging dozens of homes in North Woodland Hills.
Phasing and Funding
However, construction won’t all happen at once and it won’t start immediately. The project must be built in phases to avoid disrupting traffic as much as possible. The Redevelopment Authority has promised that two lanes of traffic will remain available in each direction for the duration of the project – with the possible exception of limited lane closures during bridge construction. during the bridge construction, which will be the last phase. The Public will be notified when a lane closure is anticipated.
The project will be built in phases starting at US59 and working east. Phase I will go from US59 to a short distance east of Russell-Palmer Road. This is called the Overpass (or Western Phase) of the project. LHRA budgeted $57 million for it.
Construction should start on the Western Phase in late 2021 and will last approximately 30 months. The Eastern Phase should start in summer 2023 and will last approximately 24 months.
Phase II (the Eastern Phase) will go from Russell-Palmer to Woodland Hills. That will cost another $50 million (or more if a new bridge over Ben’s Branch must be built). At this time, the drainage analysis for that portion of the project has not yet been completed.
The timing partially depends on tax revenues and grants. It also depends on the purchase of several parcels of land needed for feeder roads around the railroad bridge – not to mention approval by the railroad itself. The railroad reportedly favors the bridge because it improves safety, but is still studying the feeder roads.
After that , the next step will be to solicit bids and review them.
Drainage Improvements Will Make Extra Lanes Possible
One of the more interesting aspects of the project is the conversion of the drainage ditch in the middle of Northpark to buried culverts. Two extra lanes will be placed where the ditch now is. In other words, the roadway will expand inward rather than outward.
The ditch that now splits opposing lanes of traffic on Northpark will be replaced by buried culverts. The culverts will telescope up in size from 4’x4′ near the railroad tracks. As you go east toward the Diversion Ditch, they will get larger until they reach 8’x6′.
A 66″ outfall will then restrict flow into the Kingwood Diversion ditch. Thus, the culverts will provide inline, underground detention to help protect people downstream.
Most people think that the properties on both sides of Northpark drain into the ditch. However, only parts of them do. According to Sarman, most of each property fronting Northpark either drains north into Ben’s Branch or south into the Kings Mill Ditch. So the culverts should suffice, he says.
The Redevelopment Authority has posted plans and videos that help explain the project in more detail. For more information, see:
Thanks to Partners
Sarman thanked Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock, and the Houston Galveston Area Council for their assistance in keeping this multi-faceted project moving. KSA will also maintain the entries when construction finishes.
Sarman is an engineer by trade. He retired after more than 50 years with Turner Collie & Braden and AECOM. Earlier in his career, he helped design the drainage in Kingwood. His experience and continued involvement provide valuable contributions to this important project.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/28/2021 based on information provided by Stan Sarman and the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority
1429 Days since Hurricane Harvey