As the March 11 Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority and Tax Increment Zone No. 10 (TIRZ) meeting began, Chairman Stan Sarman welcomed Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin into the teleconference by asking if he had any opening comments. Martin responded in a humorous tone:
“So, when are we going to have the groundbreaking ceremony?”
Martin was referring to the long-planned Northpark Drive Overpass Project that he and the Kingwood community have anticipated for several years and which is now approved and funded. Sarman responded to Martin’s question by noting Vince Obregon, project manager for the engineering group HNTB, was about to provide a full update as a major part of the meeting. The project is now in the process of intense planning in preparation for construction to begin.
The multimillion dollar, two-phase project will expand the road from four to six lanes between Hwy. 59 and Russell Palmer Road and add an overpass over the Union Pacific railroad at Loop 494.
The west end phase will be built first and the east end of the project will follow as soon as possible, once right of way land acquisition and a host of other planning requirements are completed, including flood drainage and community evacuation requirements. As Sarman had noted in February, the project bench marks are all moving forward as planned.
“The plan right now is to get city signatures April 17 and then get ready for advertising this project April 20. Bids will be due May 25; then we hope to make the construction awards in June. That’s kind of the high-level schedule as we see it laying out,” Obregon said. He said project engineers are having biweekly meetings with Union Pacific and meeting with Harris County Flood Control regarding drainage and flooding issues.
Obregon said current work includes executing all consultant agreements; coordinating with the Harris County Flood Control District, Union Pacific and other entities; and establishing new design criteria with TxDOT processes that include environmental requirements, lane widths, sidewalk widths and the additional roadway section so they can refine some of the right of way land requirements.
Obregon explained HNTB is also submitting a project planning chart to lay out all the project milestones for every organization’s review.
“We have a meeting scheduled soon to go through that schedule to make sure we all understand the key milestone dates, in particular understanding how TxDOT’s role will operate,” Sarman said.
“I want to reiterate to our consultants the critical need of Northpark Drive being passable during extreme events as well as where Bens Branch crosses Northpark Drive. It is going to be a critical design right there,” he said. “So, we have to make sure that this works,” Sarman said.
When Obregon finished, TIRZ board member Tom Broad said, “It sounds like we could have a groundbreaking in July.”
“That could be possible,” said Sarman.
Martin added his comment to the discussion, “We’re going to be out there; there will be no Zoom for that,” he said.
As soon as a firm official start date can be determined, in the summer or not, Sarman said he would notify everyone, and they would plan accordingly.
The next Lake Houston TIRZ 10 meeting will be April 8. If COVID restrictions are still in effect it will be conducted as a conference call. Otherwise, the meeting will be held at the Kingwood Community Center, 4102 Rustic Woods Dr.