Tag Archive for: UnionPacific Railroad

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