AP NEWS

Road construction and flood mitigation in progress in northwest Harris County

March 29, 2019

Road construction, improvements and flood bond projects are currently underway in northwest Harris County, says Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle.

At the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce’s economic outlook forum on Friday, March 29, Cagle said that nearly half of the maps or plan for proposed construction projects that are approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court twice a month tend to be from Precinct 4.

“We now have to service that growth. We now have to provide additional law enforcement. We have to provide additional other services,” he said.

According to the Precinct 4 website, about 1.2 million people live within the the area, which spans a large area of north and northwest Harris County.

Cagle said that the response to the population increase has been to improve mobility on the roads, along with safety.

Following the widespread devastation caused during high floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey, all road projects must also include drainage improvements.

“From what we’ve experienced in the last few years—five 100-year flood events, two 500-year flood events (and) one 2,000-year flood event, we’re beginning to realize that if you’re upstream, water flows downhill. If you’re upstream and you don’t improve that stream — if it’s not dealt with upstream, it comes downstream to where you are. We now have a policy that when you’re opening a road, the drainage has to improve unless there’s some economic reason why we can’t,” he said.

Some of the road projects that are underway include the westward extension of Holderrieth Road, the widening of Gosling Road and Hufsmith-Kohrville Road.

Cagle said that pre-planning on projects can take a while, but once designs are created to address an issue, a project needs to get underway, which would require the county obtaining the right of way on a property and moving utility pipes, if necessary.

“It can sit on the shelf for a number of years, but once you design something and you really need to pull the trigger on it in one to two years because it goes stale,” he said.

While the precinct takes care of roads and their maintenance, it does not build and maintain sidewalks. Instead, the precinct can team up with home owners associations to help design and split the cost of concrete to create the sidewalks in neighborhoods where roads are being built.

“It works best so we can put everything together at the same time,” Cagle said.

Once the sidewalks are completed, home owners association would maintain them.

Cagle said the county is working on plans to manage drought and flood events and is considering implementing large-scale plans, such as digging underground tunnels to funnel water to the Houston Ship Channel during heavy rains.

The excess water from periods of heavy rain could also be stored underground to help the ground from sinking.

“Sometimes it’s too much water. Sometimes it’s not enough water. Usually, the drought season precedes the flood seasons in our cycles,” he said.

mayra.cruz@chron.com