Tag Archive for: Northpark Drive expansion

Northpark Drive Expansion Starting Today

On 4/13/23 at 8 A.M. sharp, Northpark Drive expansion started after 10 years of planning. Dignitaries gathered in the parking lot of a local business for the groundbreaking ceremony even as surveyors were already working father east and Harper Brothers Construction started prepositioning equipment.

This project will make Kingwood safer in the next big flood. It will also make the Livable Forest more livable by reducing traffic congestion.

Ceremonial Kickoff

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, Council Member-at-Large Sally Alcorn, the board of the Lake Houston Area Redevelopment Authority, and Montgomery County Precinct 4 Commissioner Matt Gray all grabbed shovels for the ceremonial kickoff.

Gray will coordinate with the City on this project. Even though it is within the City, Phase One falls entirely in Montgomery County.

Martin acted as master of ceremonies and reminded everyone of the work the late TIRZ Chairman Stan Sarman did to keep this project moving through the years.

How Project Began

Martin called this the first major infrastructure project in Kingwood since the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge was built between 1990 and 1992. He also provided a brief history of the project. More than a decade ago, the City considered expanding Kingwood Drive.

Traffic studies showed that Kingwood Drive ranked as the most congested thoroughfare in the City and was among the most dangerous. However, the community’s desire to preserve the trees along Kingwood Drive – one of the signature attractions of the community – put that project on indefinite hold.

The City then began looking at Northpark Drive as an alternative. It was ranked the fifth most congested thoroughfare in the City and also one of the most dangerous.

Benefits of Project

Martin emphasized the benefits of the project during emergencies, such as Hurricane Harvey, which virtually turned Kingwood into an island. He also talked about the increasing length of trains and how they could block Kingwood Drive, Northpark and Ford Road simultaneously.

Martin said that the Northpark Drive expansion will provide a bridge over the railroad tracks and Loop 494 that lets citizens, firetrucks and ambulances enter and exit Kingwood 24/7/365 without delay. The City will also raise Northpark in places that frequently flood, i.e., at the diversion ditch and over Bens Branch.

Culverts will replace the ditch now down the center of Northpark Drive so the thoroughfare can expand to six lanes.

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin

The first phase of the project from 59 to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch should take about two years to complete. Traffic frequently backs up most of this distance, especially when trains pass through the area.

Pictures of Groundbreaking

Below are pictures that show today’s ceremony and scope of the project.

Martin (left) and Turner (right) kicked off the ceremony by talking about the need for the project and thanking all those present for their support.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has only eight and a half months left in office, drew a laugh from the crowd when he quipped that residents could complain to someone else about traffic delays during construction.
First shovels in a two year project. Gray, Martin and Turner are fourth, fifth and sixth from left respectively. Traffic backed up in background underscores need for project.
Looking SW. Drone shot taken as event (bottom middle) was breaking up also shows where bridge will go over UP railroad tracks and Loop 494 in upper right.
Looking west. Another drone shot taken on previous afternoon at 3PM shows inbound traffic backed up all the way to 59 in background .
Looking east toward Kingwood. First phase of project will go to end of ditch at top of frame.

Construction always entails some pain. But the benefits will far outweigh any inconvenience. I can’t wait to be one of the first to drive over the bridge that will alleviate the perpetual congestion at the intersection above.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/13/2023

2053 Days since Hurricane Harvey

February Update on Northpark Drive Expansion

My posts earlier this week about repair of the Northpark Drive drainage ditch between Loop 494 and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch sparked a flurry of questions. People wanted to know when the Northpark Drive expansion project would begin. Last July, local leaders felt it would begin before the end of 2021. Obviously that didn’t happen. So I reached out to Stan Sarman, chairman of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA) and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #10 (Kingwood).

Sarman, an engineer by trade, said “I never thought it would take this long to obtain all the Right-Of-Way easements and approval of the plans by the City of Houston and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). Below is a summary of the information that was reported at the LHRA/TIRZ10 Board meeting on February 10th.”

“The 100% construction plans went to the City and UPRR,” continued Sarman. “We are now getting more comments from the City Public Works people. There is to be a meeting next week with our consultants and the City staff to work through the comments.” 

“The UPRR approval is not expected until late March, 2022, according to UPRR’s consultant. We have 6 or 7 easements remaining and we are close to getting across the finish line by the end of March.”

“The best estimate I have,” said Sarman “is to try and bid the job in April, 2022, and start construction in mid summer. We will keep the public informed of when we expect construction to start.”

The money is in the TIRZ budget, which the City approved. See pages 7-9 of Exhibit A in this PDF.

Northpark Drive Reconstruction Project Overview

Here’s a link to more information about the project on the LHRA website. Northpark Drive reconstruction consists of two projects right now.

T-1013 Northpark Drive Overpass Project (Western Phase)

The reconstruction of Northpark Drive into a 6-lane divided roadway, between IH-69 and Russell Palmer Road and an overpass over the UPRR train tracks and State Loop 494. Projected to take 30 months after start of construction.

T-1014 Northpark Drive Reconstruction Project (Eastern Phase)

The reconstruction of Northpark Drive into a 6-lane divided roadway, new bridges at the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch and a pedestrian tunnel near Glade Valley Road. Projected to take 24 months after start of construction.

Say Goodbye to the Ditch

A giant buried box culvert will replace the ditch down the middle of the Northpark and the extra lanes will go over the top of it.

Other features include:

  • Drainage will be sized to comply with new higher Atlas-14 requirements.
  • Dual 10-foot wide pathways on the north and south sides of Northpark Drive from Rock Creek Drive to Russell Palmer Road will facilitate bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
  • Enhanced lighting and landscaping.

This project can’t come soon enough for me. Coming inbound to Kingwood today from US59, I saw outbound traffic stacked up for more than a mile past Russell-Palmer Road! That’s an everyday experience as shown by this file photo taken last July 28.

Northpark Drive looking east at outbound traffic on left side of road. Taken July 28, 2021 from over the UP railroad tracks.

If traffic backs up this far in the middle of a sunny afternoon, imagine how far it would back up when thousands were trying to evacuate from a flood.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/19/22

1635 Days since Hurricane Harvey