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Kingwood Town Hall: Officials update Northpark Drive, mitigation projects

October 10, 2018

Houston officials updated major transportation and infrustructure initiatives and informed residents about items that will be on the ballot in November during the Kingwood Town Hall meeting Oct. 9 at the Kingwood Community Center.

Northpark Drive expansion

Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 Chairman Stan Sarman gave an update on the Northpark Drive Mobility Improvement Project.

The mobility improvement project will widen Northpark Drive to a six-lane boulevard with landscaping and improve flood mitigation and storm water detention ponds. The thoroughfare is currently four lanes between Loop 494 to Woodland Hills Drive.

The expansion is divided into two phases: the overpass project and the reconstruction project.

The overpass project will expand the roadway starting from Hwy. 59 to Russell Palmer Road. Phase II — the reconstruction project — will start at Russell Palmer Road and span to Woodland Hills Drive.

Construction for the overpass is estimated to start in 2020 and take approximately 30 months to complete. Costs for the overpass project is estimated at $38.8 million and will be locally funded. Houston is contributing $15.4 million for the design, right-of-way acquisition and construction costs.

Phase II construction is estimated to start in 2023. The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority, a subsidiary of TIRZ10, will fund the design, right-of-way acquisition and remaining 20 percent of construction costs. The reconstruction costs is estimated at $47 million.

“The key thing on Northpark is we have a couple of issues remaining with the city as far as agreements and as soon as those are approved we’ll be going forward as quickly as we can,” Sarman said.

Debris removal update

Tetra Tech was contracted by the city of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department to remove between 75,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of debris from Lake Houston in May.

The project, which was estimated to cost between $8 and $20 million, is about 80 percent complete, Directors Ralph Natale and John Buri said.

Natale said over the past 109 days they have collected 81,000 cubic yards of debris and covered about 63 miles of coastline around Lake Houston.

“We are about 80 percent done with the debris removal. The majority of the debris has been collected on a first pass and we’re going back to collect the remaining collections of debris,” Natale said.

Flood mitigation projects

Chief Resiliency Officer Stephen Costello talked about several mitigation projects in the Lake Houston area, including an expansion of the Lake Houston dam.

City of Houston and Harris County officials are working on constructing a 10-foot gate structure to supplement existing gates on the dam for increased storm water storage and release capacity. This project is a little over $48 million with a 25 percent local match from the city and county.

Offcials submitted their application to FEMA in July and it is currently under review. Costello said the reviewing process could take as long as six months.

Costello also addressed the necessity of further dredging the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently overseeing a nearly $70 million dredging project to return the San Jacinto River to its pre-Harvey capacity. The current dredging project is expected to remove nearly 2 million cubic yards of shoal material, which will be deposited at a site west of Hwy. 59, south of Kingwood Drive; and a site east of Hwy. 59, south of the San Jacinto River.

However, Costello said more dredging could be necessary.

Costello presented a a graphic of the sedimentation that has occurred in the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and in Lake Houston between 2011 and 2018.

“The reason why I’m showing you this exhibit is because when we go do the Harvey recovery, the sedimentation that we’re pumping out and dredging, it can only be the portion of the sedimentation that occurred as a result of Harvey. We don’t have surveys of the sedimentation before Harvey and then the day after Harvey. We just have these surveys. So there’s going to be a series of negotiations with the regulatory agencies on how much of the material we want to move,” Costello said.

Federal dollars for Harvey recovery

Chief Recovery Officer Marvin Odum informed Kingwood residents about $2.5 billion in funding that should be coming from FEMA for Houston infrastructure repairs.

“Interesting thing about this category is that this money is not capped,” Odum said. “This is something where we have damage and we can prove this damage exists then we will get 90 percent of the money to fix it.”

During Tuesday night’s town hall meeting Odum noted that only $200 million has been delivered so far from FEMA.

“This is a long-term process … this is just painfully slow,” Odum said. “FEMA is overloaded, there’s a lot of reasons for that but it is slow and we just have to recognize that; but the city is at a good position in terms of where we’re headed in that category.”

Odum also noted that about $1.15 billion from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be allocated to the City of Houston for unmet housing needs after Harvey.

“Pretty soon we’ll be rolling out the program for how that will be distributed across the city,” Odum said. “That money is not expected to hit the ground until December, a full 16 months after the storm.”

Odum said even with the monies coming in from HUD it still may not be enough for Houston to fully recover. Through some data analysis the city has done, it was determined they will need at least three times more than what HUD is providing.

“If you think about the damage that was done during Harvey and you define the need for money for repair and to get people back on their feet it is much, much greater than that $1.15 billion that we’re getting,” Odum said.

November election

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Councilman Dave Martin also talked to the Kingwood crowd about Proposition A and Proposition B, which will be on the ballot in November.

Proposition A, if approved, would have a secure budget that would only be allocated to flooding, drainage and street improvements.

From 2012-2017 ReBuild Houston has provided more than $800 million for drainage improvements and paid $1.1 billion toward old debt.

Proposition B, if approved, would require the City of Houston to give firefighters a minimum 25 percent raise the first year and additional raises equal to the police department.

Turner said the raise would cost the city at least $100 million per year, which is more than the city could afford.

Turner also mentioned during the meeting if Proposition B does not pass, his offer of a 9.5 percent raise is still available for the fire department.

kaila.contreras@chron.com

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