Today I’m going to continue my series on bike infrastructure that is funded and coming, but you might now know about. This is another project that is being spearheaded by TxDOT Houston that was recently funded by the Houston-Galveston Area Council. These projects are typically majority funded by federal funds, with some percentage of local funds being used alongside. I recently detailed a similar project with a comparable timeline to connect the Heights MKT trail to Memorial Park.
Today, I want to look at the connector that is planned to connect the MKT Trail to the White Oak Bayou Trail. A 10′ wide sidewalk and bridge are to be constructed to link them utilizing existing TxDOT right-of-way (ROW).
As you can see from the image above, this area is not exactly under-served by bike infrastructure, especially compared to the rest of Houston. That doesn’t mean that this segment isn’t worthy of the planned $2.042 million investment.
I think it’s also important to look at the context of the surrounding area to understand why a project like this is so important. Let’s look at a slightly larger scale aerial map.
As you can see, there is a ton of development activity in this region. The blueish developments labeled MKT1 and MKT2 are Phase 1 and 2 of a currently under construction development called the mkt.
You can read more about the imminent phase 1 (labeled MKT1) here in their lookbook, but the TLDR is 115,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 87,000 sq. ft. of office space across nine structures.
Highlighted in red, you see two mid-rise apartment complexes currently being developed. The mkt developers have the smaller red square in the corner of MKT2 listed as a 300 unit complex (although, it’s not being developed by them).
Even if all of this development wasn’t happening, this area is rife with high-density townhomes (and soon, even higher density apartment complexes), and those people need a safe way to go to the grocery store, eat out, go to work and buy more crap to fill their garages from Walmart.
The current routing for bicyclists is to take the bike lane on Heights Boulevard across the I-10 access road to the nearby shopping complex. It’s Not Good™ The alternative is that they can backtrack nearly a mile and loop back on the White Oak Trail. Better, but still not a good solution.
Why is the Heights Blvd @ I10 intersection so unsafe for bikers? Take a look:
Did you notice what’s happening here? Why a bicyclists would feel uncomfortable?
With a complete lack of physical delineation between the bike lane and the regular lane, note that three of the four drivers align themselves with the curb instead of the edge of their lane, and as a result, greatly encroach upon the “separated” bike lane. Instead of centering themselves in the lane, they are centering themselves in the pavement that they feel is usable. Combined with drivers who greatly exceed the 30 MPH speed limit, it’s a potentially lethal combination.
Bike lanes won’t serve their purpose unless regular people feel comfortable taking their kids or their parents on them. The wonderful MKT trail extends north from Lawrence Park for almost 2 miles and will allow people to do normal life activities by riding down their street to a protected trail and then taking off-street bikeways the entire way to the grocery store. This is the type of change that will allow people to stop burning as many fossil fuels while getting exercise at the same time. The answer is not a half-baked Heights Blvd bike lane.
Not too far north of this intersection, 23-year-old cyclist David Leon was killed in a bike lane by a school bus driver crossing Heights Blvd. It’s vital that we build infrastructure that is safe for everyone to use without the threat of being run over by inattentive drivers.
As far as a timeline, it’s very similar to the other project connecting the MKT trail to Memorial Park. Survey work is to be completed in 2020, plan review in late 2021, and open to the public in 2022. mkt phase 1 is expected to be open sometime in 2020.