Tag Archive for: Northpark entries

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

Contractors Clearing South Side of Northpark Entry at US59

October 2, 2023 – Contractors finished clearing the north side of Kingwood’s Northpark entry last week. Now they have shifted their focus to the south side to make room for two stormwater retention basins that will double as decorative lakes.

TxDoT requires the basins to catch extra runoff caused by widening of the road.

Photos Show Progress of Northpark Entry Construction

The focus of the project’s landscape architects now is saving as many trees as possible. I took the photos below with one exception on 9/30/23.

Looking west. Trees remaining on the south (left) side of Northpark have been marked for transplantation. Excavation of pond on north (right) side should begin in mid-October.

In the photo below, note the rings around the remaining trees on the south side.

Those rings help retain water and nutrients being given to the trees to enhance their chances of surviving transplantation.
Looking E. Note how row of trees on the left screen the entry from the busy shopping center behind them. Also notice how the right side does not have a similar row of trees.

Landscape architects will relocate most of the remaining trees on the right/south side of Northpark to create a backdrop for the new pond. Some trees will remain in front of the pond. See the latest plan below.

Northpark entry plan

Handling Overflow from Ponds during Heavy Rains

To avoid flooding the Northpark entry area, contractors will channel overflow from the ponds west to Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.

Looking east. Note clearing on the left/north side of Northpark to lay the new stormwater line that will carry overflow from the ponds to the east.
Looking west toward 59. The stormwater line will go behind Public Storage (upper left) and carry water toward the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Bens Branch.
Northpark Drive expansion;
Route for excess water. Circle shows location of photo above this one.

Status from Diversion Ditch to 494

Looking east from Russell-Palmer to Kingwood Diversion Ditch. Virtually all of the ditch has been replaced by box culvert.
A coffer dam remains around an out-of-place water line that needs to be lowered.

Re-engineering of the water line has begun in concert with the City of Houston.

Farther east where culverts have already been placed, you can start to see how Northpark will be widened inward toward the center to create two extra lanes of traffic.
Looking west from Russell-Palmer, contractors are still waiting for Centerpoint to move a gas line out of the median to the side of the road.

Until Centerpoint moves that gas line, contractors will focus on other parts of the project, such as the entry.

Saving Money While Saving Trees

At their monthly meeting last Thursday, Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ board members discussed the escalating cost of relocating trees. Costs increased as trees grew between the original estimate and today.

After the meeting, Ralph De Leon, the project manager, met with contractors, the landscape architect and project designer. They developed a new plan to help hold down costs.

Previously, some trees were to be moved twice, first to a temporary holding location on the north side of Northpark and then back to their final spot on the south side. Why? Contractors needed to build up land behind the pond on the south side of Northpark before transplanting the trees.

The new plan calls for building up the land before moving ANY trees. That will eliminate the cost of the double move. It will also reduce traffic disruption. Tree moving equipment will no longer have to cross Northpark.

Main Goals of Northpark Project

Overall, the main goals of the Northpark project include:

  • Widening the road to reduce delays caused by increased traffic
  • Building a bridge over the UP railroad tracks to eliminate traffic blockages
  • Creating a reliable, all-weather evacuation route for Kingwood

For More Information

For previous posts about Northpark construction, see the following:

Also visit the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ 10 Project pages at https://lakehoustonra.com.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/2/23

2225 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Northpark Entry Plan Balances Flood Mitigation, Saving Trees, Cost

Social media has been abuzz this week about the Northpark Drive entry to Kingwood. As contractors removed trees from the north side of the road to make room for a detention pond, many people complained.

But it’s important to remember why we’re improving Northpark: to accommodate increased traffic and to create a reliable, all-weather evacuation route. In that regard, the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA) must balance three conflicting needs: flood mitigation, saving trees and cost. Let’s look at how each relates to the objectives.

Reliable, All-Weather Evacuation Route

During Harvey, Hamblen Road, Kingwood Drive and Northpark were all blocked by rising floodwaters. That forced many people to try to snake out of Kingwood through Porter…if they could get there. Many couldn’t.

For decades, we’ve also worried about the possibility of a train disaster that could block off Kingwood’s exits. The longer trains that Union Pacific runs now can block multiple exits simultaneously. The longest trains stretch for more than three miles. And if there were a derailment or toxic spill, it would be difficult getting people to safety.

Raising the elevation of Northpark between Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch eliminates the first problem. And building the bridge over the tracks at 494 eliminates the second.

Finally, widening the road will enable more vehicles to evacuate faster.

Flood-Mitigation Enhancements

All that extra concrete to expand the road, however, reduces rainwater infiltration and increases runoff. To keep the road from flooding, engineers calculated they needed 22 acre feet of stormwater detention capacity near US59.

The solution: build two permanent ponds, one each on the north and south sides of 59 where the groves of trees were. TxDoT already owned the land. So it was available at no cost.

Looking N toward Kroger Center. Clearing for N pond completed. Clearing for S pond (bottom right) begins next week.

Water will permanently fill the ponds, just like those at Kingwood Drive. The difference between the normal water surface elevation and the lip of the ponds will equal 22 acre feet. The size of the ponds will keep that gap at an aesthetically pleasing level.

Looking S. Note the protective fencing around the remaining trees. Additional trees may be stored temporarily in the foreground.

Said another way, the ponds will look like decorative enhancements but serve a vital purpose that few realize.

The outline you see in the photo below will match the perimeter of the pond.

No more trees will be cut for this pond. The area cleared represents the final outline of the pond.

The layout below shows how the ponds should look when completed.

For a more legible, high-res version, click here.

Saving Trees

According to Ralph De Leon, project manager, “Enough trees will remain to form a pleasing backdrop for the pond, screen the visually noisy area behind them, and create a good first impression for visitors.”

From 30 feet, you can barely see the shopping center behind the trees. From ground level, it will be completely screened.

It’s important to remember that when KSA revised the Kingwood entries after TxDoT widened 59, many people wanted ponds at Northpark. They complained that KSA was neglecting Northpark compared to Kingwood Drive.

Many trees are being transplanted. But that’s an expensive proposition; the trees have grown since LHRA first prepared estimates two years ago.

“We’ve already identified the trees that will be saved,” De Leon continued. “Some will move to their permanent location immediately. Others will be stored temporarily at staging locations until the road construction gets further along. Then they’ll be moved to their permanent positions.”

The landscape architects, contractor, and LHRA are evaluating each tree individually. Their objective is to save as many as possible. But dollars pose a constraint.

Cost Limitations

De Leon also says “The cost to move each tree is roughly $11,000. We can’t afford to move the truly huge trees. They cost up to $100,000 per tree. And we just don’t have a budget for those.”

Machines like these will move trees that range from 4″ to 17″ in diameter. Photo courtesy of Davey Tree Company.

To maximize aesthetics, the Redevelopment Authority will relocate a mix of trees, such as oaks and pines.

The trees that will move have already been inventoried and tagged.

Update on Water-Line and Utility Conflicts

In my last Northpark post, I pointed out two conflicts holding up construction of the median farther east – one with a water line to a new church near Russell-Palmer Road and a second with CenterPoint.

The City of Houston has agreed to let the Redevelopment Authority’s contractor design a workaround for the water line that interfered with the placement of box culverts. Contractors left a gap big enough for two sections of culvert and a coffer dam to keep dirt from collapsing into the hole.

Because the culvert is tongue-in-groove, contractors also left enough room for a collar. That will allow the two new sections to slide into place. It will also prevent leaks in any gap that remains.

Regarding the CenterPoint gas line running down the center of the ditch at different depths, CenterPoint decided to move the whole line out of the culvert to the south side of the road. Inbound drivers may notice long lengths of welded blue pipe stacked up between Russell-Palmer and Kings Mill. That’s what that is for.

Next Steps

Contractors will start removing trees for the south entry pond at 59 during the week of 9/24/23. Here is the latest revised schedule. Check back often for more updates as they happen.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/23/23

2216 Days since Hurricane Harvey