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The future of Kingwood road projects: TIRZ updates Northpark Drive expansion, intersection improvements

Chron logo Chron 5/12/2018 By Melanie Feuk

The board of directors for the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority — a subsidiary of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 — discussed expected road projects in Kingwood over the next five years during the May 10 board meeting.

“In a nutshell…you have your intersection improvements that we identified in the Kingwood Mobility Plan; you have Mills Branch (Drive reconstruction); and you have Northpark Drive (overpass and reconstruction),” said board consultant Ralph De Leon.

Chairman Stan Sarman said LHRA/TIRZ10 is in the process of obtaining funds for Phase I of the Northpark Drive expansion project, which will run from Hwy. 59 to Russell Palmer Road and includes expanding the roadway to a 6-lane divided thoroughfare with a flyover at the Loop-494 railroad tracks.

The projected cost for Phase I is $38.8 million, with $23.3 million to be paid using TIRZ funds.

The city of Houston previously allocated $15.4 million to a proposed mobility project on Kingwood Drive in 2020. However, the funds could be available sooner.

“We have met with Public Works about getting an early draw on funding that the city’s looking at passing on for the Northpark Drive, and we got an email yesterday that they’re working on getting $6 million transferred over to us so we can proceed on with the design of Northpark Drive. And that’s part of the $15 million that’s the total amount being transferred from Kingwood Drive to Northpark,” Sarman said.

De Leon said there are a lot of unknowns as far as the formula to determine what the cost to TIRZ will be on Phase II of the Northpark Drive project, which will expand Northpark Drive to six lanes from Russell Palmer Road to Woodland Hills Drive at a projected cost of $17.9 million.

The first phase of Northpark Drive improvements include construction of an overpass above Loop 494 and Union Pacific railroad tracks in Kingwood. © Courtesy Of Google / Courtesy Of Google The first phase of Northpark Drive improvements include construction of an overpass above Loop 494 and Union Pacific railroad tracks in Kingwood.

The LHRA/TIRZ10 are in the process of completing a Transportation Improvement Program application with the Houston-Galveston Area Council for federal funding to cover 80 percent of the cost. If approved, they would be responsible for 20 percent of the project cost.

“We’re talking about 80 (percent and) 20 (percent) like it means something,” De Leon said. “It’s really not 80-20 at all. What happens is that the mayor (of Houston) is asking us to design Northpark to a 500-year (flood) event, but TxDOT designs to a 2-year event. They’re not bound to the mayor’s decision, nor is the feds.”

De Leon explained that when calculating the 80 percent reimbursement on the project, the state would pay 80 percent of what the project would have cost if designed and constructed using TxDOT standards.

“We’re going to have to pay for that design differential. …So, even though we’re saying 80-20 on the eastern sector, numerically we have to have a little bit of (cushion) on our side which is why you have some fund balance left over,” De Leon said.

Intersection improvements

Several other mobility projects are included in the TIRZ10 five-year capital improvement plan, most being intersection improvements.

One of the projects already in progress includes improvements made to two Northpark Drive intersections — at West Lake Houston Parkway and Kings Crossing. Improvements focused on increasing safety for both drivers and pedestrians such as adding turn lanes and sidewalks.

Rachel Ray-Welsh of Walter P Moore said the intersections should be completely finished by the end of July.

“They’re pretty much done,” Ray-Welsh said. “The big thing they’re waiting on are the signals, the mast arms and the poles for the signals.”

The signal currently Northpark and West Lake Houston Parkway is temporary, she explained. The installation of the permanent signals was temporarily delayed due to an unexpected issue that forced them to change manufacturers.

After the new signals are installed, the intersection might be restriped due to complaints about the current striping. Restriping is contingent upon having enough road width, but Ray-Welsh said she thinks there will be enough room to restripe the intersection.

Additionally, two street lights at Kings Crossing Drive need to be relocated and adjusted by CenterPoint, which Ray-Welsh anticipates may take a few weeks to accomplish.

The cost of the two intersection projects is approximately $1.7 million, according to documents provided in the board meeting packet.

From 2019-2023, TIRZ10 plans to make improvements to: Kingwood Drive at Willow Terrace; Kingwood Drive at Trail Wood Village and Woodland Grove Drive; Kingwood Drive at Chestnut Ridge Drive; Kingwood Drive at Woodland Hills Drive; Kingwood Drive at Royal Forest Drive; and Kingwood Drive at Green Oak Drive.

The order in which these intersection projects are done has yet to be determined. Sarman and other board members will analyze the intersections and assign prioritization.

“What you don’t want to do is reconstruct the intersection and have all the traffic then congest at the one downhill from it,” De Leon said. “There needs to be some logic to how we do these. What I’ve done is I’ve left sufficient ending fund balance through all five years that you can move things back and forth and it should still be affordable.”

Mills Branch Drive

Also included in the 5-year plan is reconstructing Mills Branch Drive stretching from Kingwood Drive to Northpark Drive. Traffic signals will be added at Mills Branch and Kingwood drives along with sidewalks, crosswalks and lights.

mfeuk@hcnonline.com

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