Tag Archive for: Ditch One

Northpark Tree Transplantation Finished, Drainage Updates

Despite constant rain that brought widespread flooding to the Houston region last week, contractors finished the Northpark tree transplantation. They also made significant progress on two other parts of the road expansion project since my last update two weeks ago. I took the pictures below on 2/1/24 with one exception.

Among the highlights:

  • Dozens of trees were transplanted on the south side of Northpark at US59. The trees now form an arc around what will eventually become a decorative pond/retention basin on the south side of the intersection.
  • Excavation of a companion decorative pond/retention basin on the north side of Northpark is much farther along than in my previous report.
  • The first leg of 8-foot culvert linking the ponds with Ditch One is almost complete. The other two legs (under the railroad tracks and from US59 to Loop 494) should start within weeks.

Ideal Weather for Northpark Tree Transplantation

The cool, wet weather created ideal conditions for the transplanted trees to take root and thrive. Ralph De Leon, project manager, noted that the spacing of the trees also gives them room to spread and thrive.

Each transplanted tree has a ring around the base designed to retain supplemental water. The trees will receive extra water for two years to ensure they thrive after the shock of being transplanted.

Looking south. Transplanted trees will form a backdrop for what will soon become another decorative pond.

Pond Excavation Progress

Meanwhile, across Northpark, excavation of the first of two ponds is proceeding despite the wet weather.

Looking north. Across Northpark Drive, excavation of the pond/retention basin is already well underway.
Reverse angle of same area makes it easier to see the extent of excavation.

Excavated dirt is being stored temporarily at a sand mine on Sorters-McClellan Road. After the culverts are installed down the center of Northpark, contractors will retrieve the excavated dirt and place it over the culvert sections to form the road bed.

The pond above will go 8-12 feet deeper than you see now. The contractor is only digging down to the water table for now until: a) pond liners arrive and b) drainage connections for the ponds are complete. That’s because the contractors will have to continuously pump water as they excavate to the final depth.

Pond Landscaping Plans

That horse-shoe-shaped area on the left (above and below) will be a decorative focal point for the pond.

The trench you see above will contain a brick retaining wall that keeps the area from eroding into the ponds.

Final design of the north pond will look like this.

The peninsula will contain decorative trees, shrubs and other plantings.

The next diagram shows how the north and south ponds will closely mirror each other.

Current plans call for colorful crepe myrtles. Japanese ardisia, a ground cover, will ring the area.

Japanese ardisia, also called marlberry, is a flowering, evergreen ground cover introduced from the Far East. It is a low-growing, woody shrub that spreads laterally while growing to a height of 8-12 inches.

No Identifying Entry Signage

Unlike Kingwood Drive, where KSA owns the land behind the ponds, TXDoT owns all the land at Northpark Drive. So you will not see any prominent Kingwood identification as you do at Kingwood Drive.

Drainage Progress Between Railroad and Ditch One

The entry ponds above will drain to “Ditch One.” The ditch runs parallel to Northpark behind the businesses on the north side of the road.

Culverts will carry the water from the ponds eastward, then under Loop 494 and the railroad tracks. The culvert will then turn north and back east again behind the businesses (see red line below).

Route of culvert from entry ponds to Ditch Ditch One.
Route of drainage from north pond to Ditch One. Photo from 1/24.

The agreement with UnionPacific to tunnel under the tracks has been completed and the plans approved. However, tunneling has not yet started. UP indicated that their busy season ends after February, so boring under the tracks will likely be delayed until then for safety reasons.

Regardless, the link to Ditch One around the storage businesses above is almost complete. Culvert has already been buried parallel to the tracks and behind two storage businesses.

Looking SW. Culvert placement almost complete. Contracts use the dirt to level ground above the culvert.

Existing drainage will join the new culvert behind those businesses. Currently, contractors are working on the junction. See below.

The new 8′ pipe from the ponds is the one with the man standing inside of it.

Contractors are also working on the outfall into the ditch. Because of the expected velocity of the water, they must create concrete walls to prevent erosion of the surrounding earth that could undermine the pipe.

Start of the concrete outfall into Ditch One.
ditch one
Ditch One (center) will then carry the stormwater to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Bens Branch.

Ditch One will eventually be widened to handle the increased flow. Connecting the ponds at US59 to the link under the railroad tracks should start in the next few weeks.

The project requires the additional retention and drainage capacity shown above to handle runoff from the extra lanes of traffic.

In front of the businesses shown above, Northpark will eventually expand to 10 lanes from the current four. Six will carry traffic on a bridge over the railroad and Loop 494. Four turn lanes will remain at ground level – two on each side of the bridge. The two will let traffic turn north or south onto 494 from each direction.

Built to TXDoT Highway Standards

This entire project is being built to TXDoT highway standards. Those standards exceed normal neighborhood street standards. You would expect nothing less for what will eventually become a critical evacuation route for 78,000 people.

  • Lanes will be 12-feet wide instead of 10 to safely carry traffic at higher speeds.
  • Concrete will be much thicker than normal to carry heavier loads without cracking.
  • Storm drains will be sized to carry the volume of runoff you would expect from highways. The wider inlets will help avoid water flooding roads during intense rainfalls.

Greater Safety at Rail Crossing/Loop 494

Safety will also improve at the railroad crossing.

  • A bridge will carry most traffic over the railroad.
  • The entire train track at Northpark will have a one-piece steel and concrete foundation. That will reduce the chance of track shifting or dipping and causing a derailment.
  • Pedestrian/bicycle crossings will have “escape gates” in case people get caught on tracks when trains come through.

However, installation of those safety improvements will cause some inconvenience. To install that one-piece steel and concrete foundation, the railroad will shut down for three days. That will require closing off Northpark for three days also.

Originally, project managers hoped to have four lanes open at all times for the duration of the project. So this is a change.

All in all, a 3-day shutdown is small price to pay for a great improvement in safety.

The road closure is still months away.

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 2/2/24

2348 Days since Hurricane Harvey

First Northpark Entry Pond Taking Shape

One week after contractors began digging the first Northpark entry pond, you can see a broad area that has already been excavated.

Looking S toward Northpark and US59 on 1/21/24.

The decorative pond, when complete, will double as a detention basin to temporarily store extra runoff from the newly widened Northpark roadbed and US59 feeder road during heavy storms.

Stormwater will collect between the pond’s normal water level and the surface of the ground, then drain slowly at a rate (constrained by the outfall pipe) that drainage ditches can safely handle.

Stormwater from 59 feeder road as well as Northpark will flow into ponds.

Why Ponds?

Traffic heading to 59 during an evacuation must not be trapped behind a flooded intersection at the freeway. Likewise, overflowing ditches must not flood homes and businesses in the area. Hence, the need for stormwater detention capacity.

The basins/ponds will also serve as decorative attractions that welcome people to Kingwood, exactly like they do at Kingwood Drive.

Contractors will build one pond on each side Northpark. Culvert that runs under Northpark will connect the ponds and carry overflow from the south pond to north pond.

Overflow from the ponds will then drain east toward Loop 494, under the railroad tracks, and behind the businesses on the north side of Northpark.

What to Expect in Coming Weeks

In coming weeks, contractors will complete the outline of the ponds. But, for now, they will only excavate down to the water table, according to project manager Ralph De Leon. Before contractors can go lower, they need a place to pump water as they dig. That means finishing the drainage-culvert connection(s) to Ditch One first. Ditch One leads to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Bens Branch farther east.

So the next steps will be:

  1. Place culvert in the easement between the north entry pond and Loop 494.
  2. Place culvert east of the railroad tracks that will connect to Ditch One.
  3. Connect both segments by tunneling under 494 and the UP Railroad tracks.

A satellite image clearly shows the entire route.

Northpark Drive drainage improvements

Here’s what it route looks like from a couple hundred feet.

Stormwater will travel from the entry ponds in the background at 59 via culvert in the easement (middle of the frame).
Then, the storm sewer will go under 494 (left) and the UP tracks before turning left and going behind two storage facilities.

In the pictures above and below, note the culvert already pre-positioned.

Behind Public Storage and Duncan Donuts, the storm drains will empty into Ditch One (top middle). Photo Oct. 2023.
Looking west. Water will flow through ditch toward the foreground behind Calvary Christian Fellowship (lower left).
Looking opposite direction from same location. Ditch One flows toward St. Martha Catholic Church (top center).

Just before reaching St. Martha Catholic Church, the water will turn right and cross under Northpark in either Bens Branch or the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.

Building from the Ground Up

De Leon emphasized that all underground work (drainage and utilities) must be completed before any road building can begin. The underground work still entails:

  • Building a second CenterPoint gas line on the north side of Northpark. CenterPoint will also build two connections to the first CenterPoint gas line on the south side. The first connection will be at Russell-Palmer Road and the second near Loop 494.
  • Relocating Entergy power lines and transformer.
  • Moving fiber-optic lines from internet and telecom companies.
  • Relocating a water line to Parkwood Baptist Church.
  • Finishing tree transplantation.
  • Tunneling storm drains under the railroad.

All of the above require permissions, permits and inter-local agreements with the City, Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ, utilities, and UP Railroad).

Three-Day Road Closure

At some future point, after those details are worked out, Northpark will have to close for three days. Previously, the plan had been to keep at least two lanes of traffic open in both directions at all times. So this represents a change. But any closure is still months away.

The closure will happen during construction of turn lanes under the bridge that will go over the UP Railroad Tracks.

UP intends to install a one-piece, 100-foot-long section of track and concrete that spans all ten lanes of traffic. The one-piece construction will involve multiple giant cranes. It will also mean shutting down rail traffic. But the final result will be a more stable track.

However, the one-piece construction also means alternate-side road closures are no longer a viable strategy.

Ideal Conditions for Tree Transplantation

The cool, wet weather during the winter months when trees are dormant makes ideal conditions for moving them. The trees should have a much higher survival rate now than during the drought and heat, as we experienced last summer.

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 1/13/24

2336 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Northpark Expansion Project Moving Forward on Multiple Fronts

October 26, 2023 – The $100 million Northpark Drive expansion project in Kingwood is making steady progress. But in some areas, the action is behind-the-scenes and out of sight for commuters. Let me describe the key highlights for this last week in October. Let’s start west of US59 and move east.

Sidewalk Extension to Kingwood College

Contractors have begun building sidewalks that will eventually connect Kingwood with Kingwood College. This will enable students who cannot afford vehicles to walk or ride bikes to school, saving money that they can put toward their educations. (Most of us can remember what that was like!) Right now, contractors are working to lay-out the forms west of the US59, on TxDOT right-of-way. The sidewalks will extend westward toward Rock Creek on both the north and south sides of the road. 

Looking ENE from west of 59 along the north side of Northpark. Note new bed for sidewalk.
Same direction but looking at the beginning of a new sidewalk along the south side of Northpark.

Brush Piles Removed

At the US59/Northpark intersection, contractors have removed huge brush piles and taken soil samples in preparation for excavation of detention basins. However, some trees still need to be transplanted, especially south of Northpark.

Huge brush piles have been removed. Looking S from E of 59 at where north entry pond will go.

Entry Pond Drainage Pipe

Contractors are installing a 12′ waterline on the north side of Northpark to take stormwater from the two new entry ponds at 59 toward Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.

Looking west toward 59. Note excavation for pipe on the N (right) side of Northpark.

Tree Transplantation

Between 59 and 494, contractors have begun transplanting trees in preparation for widening the street.

Railroad Agreement and Road Closure

The UnionPacific railroad and City of Houston have an interlocal agreement going before City Council on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. The agreement provides for the contractor’s right-of-entry and will allow private utilities to relocate their facilities now, in advance of the reconstruction of two at-grade crossings. Once approved by the City, progress in that area should quickly become more visible. Ralph De Leon, Northpark Project Manager, says he has been working to clear this hurdle since 2015!

When construction begins, UP will need to close Northpark at some point for three days to replace a section of track and update crossing signals. The new signals will provide better integration with other crossings up and down the track.

Widening of Ditch 1

Behind Public Storage, contractors are beginning to construct the new outfall, and clear and grub  “Ditch 1” for more than 800 feet. This will help channel runoff down to Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch. It will create an alternate route to evacuate excess stormwater that collects in the detention basins at the US59 Northpark entry. Ditch 1 will parallel Northpark behind the businesses on the north side of the street.

Looking east at Ditch 1 north of Northpark. It is being widened to 40 feet.

Water Main Conflict Resolved

Just past Russell-Palmer, the conflict with a church water main has finally been solved. The City approved a plan to reroute the water under the 6’x8′ box culverts being installed in the center ditch. Once rerouted, contractors will go back and install the missing sections of culvert. They will also place a concrete collar around the splice in the sections of culvert to seal it..

Detention Capacity Expansion

Engineers are studying different scenarios to increase the detention capacity of Ditch 1 north of Northpark. They’re also working on solutions to distribute water between Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch, so as not to overwhelm the capacity of either.

Phase II Kicking Off in January

Planning for Phase II of the project (east of the Kingwood Diversion Ditch) has begun. Engineers are examining designs for a pedestrian tunnel near Glade Valley. The tunnel would accommodate extra wide wheelchairs used by clients at the Village Learning Center who shuttle between the Center and jobs along Northpark.

Phase II of Northpark Project
Detail from Diversion Ditch to Woodland Hills. For complete, higher res version, see below.

Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ 10 will hold two public meetings. The first is scheduled for  January 11, 2024, at the Kingwood Community Center to discuss Phase II and solicit input from other groups and residents. 

Additionally, the Engineers are studying different scenarios to increase the detention capacity on the north side of Northpark Drive at Ben’s Branch in order to reduce flooding further south on Ben’s Branch. Potential solutions include detention basins and diverting more water down the Kingwood Diversion Ditch. The Diversion Ditch is being expanded as part of a separate project.

For More Information

The Northpark expansion project has two purposes:

  • Reduce traffic congestion/commute times
  • Create an all-weather evacuation route for 70,000 people who might be affected by floods or train mishaps.

You can review progress of the job by browsing these previous ReduceFlooding.com posts:

For more information, consult the LHRA/TIRZ 10 website.

For a schematic diagram of Phase II (Russell-Palmer to Woodland Hills and beyond, see below.

Click here to enlarge into a higher res PDF.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/26/23

2249 Days since Hurricane Harvey

CenterPoint Delays Force Change in Plans on Northpark Drive Expansion

CenterPoint delays have forced a change in Northpark Drive expansion plans.

Contractors working on the Northpark Drive expansion project in Kingwood have installed culvert as far west as they can until CenterPoint begins eliminating 11 conflicts. According to Ralph De Leon, Northpark project manager for the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA), CenterPoint was to have begun eliminating the conflicts on August 1. Four weeks later, CenterPoint hasn’t yet started.

Center Ditch Work Paused; Two New Areas of Focus

The CenterPoint delay is forcing LHRA contractors to change their plans. Specifically:

  • Work in the drainage ditch between east and westbound lanes will pause temporarily.
  • Contractors will move their crews west and begin working on:
    • Expansion of Ditch One that will parallel Northpark to the north.
    • Stormwater retention basins at the corner of Northpark and I-69.

Contractors have already prepositioned equipment and materials for the Ditch One portion of the project behind Duncan Donuts and the stormwater retention basins at I-69. However, as of Sunday morning, 8/27/23, work has not yet begun on either area.

Northpark Drive drainage improvements
Overview showing route of supplementary drainage (Ditch One) from I-69 to to Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch.

Photos Taken Sunday August 27, 2023

The pictures below show where contractors will now focus until CenterPoint mobilizes.

Workers have begun pre-positioning equipment and materials behind Duncan Donuts next to Public Storage to begin working on Ditch One.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20230827-DJI_0373-copy-1024x682.jpg
Ditch One will carry stormwater north (left) of Northpark from the wet-bottom retention ponds that will be built at I-69.
Looking west along Northpark. Both groves of trees in the foreground will become stormwater retention basins.

Stormwater retention basins will accommodate the extra runoff from the expanded roadway. Culvert under the roadway will connect the two basins and let them drain toward the east into Ditch One.

Looking east at north grove in foreground. Note culvert and pipe being prepositioned inside tree line.

When finished, the twin ponds should resemble the entry ponds at Kingwood Drive.

Where Work Will Pause Temporarily

Meanwhile, farther east, work on replacing the drainage ditch with 5’x7′ culvert has paused.

Looking west along Northpark. Drainage work in the center ditch has paused at JiffyLube until CenterPoint resolves its conflicts.
Looking back east. The 5’x7′ box culverts have already been buried. Eventually two new lanes of traffic will go over them, one in each direction.

LHRA Posts Revised Schedule

LHRA has already posted a revised schedule on its website with a three-week lookahead so that you can plan your schedule to avoid construction.

LHRA has also posted construction drawings; drainage studies; and photos and videos that show the progress of work.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/27/23

2189 Days since Hurricane Harvey