Northpark Expansion project

Northpark Expansion Presses Forward While Fighting Entergy Obstacle

In the last two weeks, progress on the Northpark expansion project has slowed somewhat but is still pressing forward. Illegally dumped oil, utility surprises, and a traffic signal have all created bumps in the road, so to speak.

But there’s also good news to report: the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA) wired a $53,000 payment for a Union-Pacific (UP) easement to the railroad. That clears the way for construction of ground-level turn lanes near where the bridge over the UP tracks will go.

Let’s look at what’s happened in the last two weeks and what’s coming up.

Contaminated Soil Isolated

Two weeks ago while preparing to work on a detention basin on the north side of Northpark at US59, contractors encountered oil dumped years ago. That forced crews to see how far the pollution extended. They excavated a wide area and isolated contaminated dirt.

All contaminated soil was isolated with plastic sheeting before the rains last week.

Contractors are now getting ready to remove the contaminated soil to a safe site for permanent disposal where contaminants can’t leach into groundwater. While that cost time, it will make the site safer in the long run.

Looking west at area where north retention basin will be excavated.

Entergy Estimated It Would Take 50 Weeks to Move a Transformer

In other news, an Entergy consultant in The Woodlands has tried to hold the Northpark expansion project up for two years. He wanted an extra half million dollars (above and beyond the $700,000 already budgeted) to move some power lines and a transformer near the Exxon station at US59.

The consultant demanded 50 weeks to move the ground-mounted transformer alone. His motive was unclear. Was he using a not-so-subtle form of extortion to make himself look better in his client’s eyes?

It’s also unclear whether Entergy, a company that trumpets its social responsibility, knew about the consultant’s demands. Entergy is a Fortune 500 company with 3 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. 

The Northpark Expansion project is designed to create an all-weather evacuation route for 70,000 people. One would think that a socially minded company with a $4.4 billion rate base (in Texas alone) could move a transformer in less than a year if it really wanted to.

Ralph De Leon, project manager for the Northpark expansion project, finally managed to bypass the consultant and is now working directly with Entergy executives in Beaumont.

Lawyers for LHRA have negotiated a settlement in lieu of condemnation. Hopefully the Entergy issue will resolve amicably before the end of the year. The agreement will be on the December 14, LHRA board meeting agenda.

Traffic Light Alternative

At Russell-Palmer, contractors are still waiting for the City of Houston to change a pole mounted traffic signal to a wire-mounted one. That will enable them to continue installing box culverts when Centerpoint returns to finish moving its gas line. Centerpoint crews were MIA during the holidays.

Traffic signal in median at Northpark and Russell Palmer Road must be replaced with wire-mounted system for now.

Replacement of Ditch with Box Culverts

The City of Houston has approved the plan to detour a waterline across Northpark to the Parkwood Baptist Church (see upper right corner of photo above). The original contractors didn’t install the waterline deep enough. That created a conflict with the 6’x8′ box culverts being installed in the median. But the water-line detour should be resolved soon.

The culverts will replace the ditch in the median so that the road can be expanded inward, adding an extra lane of traffic in each direction.

Looking west in opposite direction from over Russell Palmer.

Plan for Next Three Weeks

Construction is always difficult, even in the best of times. The holidays make it even more so. Weather permitting, here are the priorities for the next three weeks.

  • Continue burying reinforced culvert at Outfall B depending on weather 
  • Alternatively, continue working on 8″ waterline on south side of Northpark between railroad tracks and King’s Mill
  • Install 12″ waterline in front of the Chick-Fil-A.
  • Complete filling in around new sidewalks west of US59
  • Mobilize on December 4th to begin tree relocation throughout the month of December.
  • Continued Retention Pond Excavation on north side at US59.

For More Information

For more information about the project including construction plans, visit the project pages of the LHRA/Tirz 10 website. Or see these posts on ReduceFlooding:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/3/23

2287 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.