Streets, Flooding Dominate CIP Meeting

Feb. 14, 2012The Houston Chronicle

Flooding problems and the poor state of streets and drainage were by far the greatest concerns raised by constituents at District C Councilwoman Ellen Cohen’s first Capital Improvement Project public meeting Monday.

Public works and engineering officials took the brunt of the questions from dozens who filled out question forms or stood in line for a turn at the microphone during the meeting at West Gray Metropolitan Multi-Services Center. Mayor Anise Parker was present.

First Montrose Commons, Freedmen’s Town and the area around Beechnut and Braesmont Drive were cited as having major problems with flooding and potholes. There were complaints about impassable sidewalks along Richmond Avenue, traffic lights that went out regularly and deteriorating drainage conditions on West Alabama Street from the spur to the 1800 block.

City officials said the plan for addressing drainage and street problems under Rebuild Houston, the initiative to improve drainage and street infrastructure through a dedicated pay-as-you-go fund, is being done on a “worst first” basis.

Dale Rudick, executive director of Rebuild Houston, said a citywide comprehensive assessment of conditions of roadways and drainage systems will let officials prioritize projects fairly under a new 10-year infrastructure plan.

“It will be data-driven,” Rudick said.

Condition of the pavement surface, congestion, incidence of flooding and cost-benefit ratio are factors that will determine when projects will be done, Rudick said.

“We look at how many people it helps and go with the most bang for the buck,” he said, adding that it takes two to six years to deliver the finished project.

Funding for Rebuild Houston projects will come from the dedicated drainage fee approved by voters in 2010, a developer impact fee, property taxes and other agencies such as Texas Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transit Authority, Rudick said.

Under the pay-as-you-go system, the city will start paying down debt on past projects and avoid going into debt for future projects, he said.

Addressing issues related to sidewalks and traffic lights, Daniel Menendez, deputy director in Public Works and Engineering, urged constituents to call 311 for any infrastructure problems.

“I understand sidewalks are not as optimum as we intend,” he said. “Let us know.”

In reference to questions about wheelchair accessibility on sidewalks along Richmond, Menendez said the city has a pedestrian accessibility program.

“If someone has special needs we try to meet those needs,” he said.

The meeting was the first of several public meetings and community gatherings Cohen plans to host for constituents of her newly redrawn district.

No dates for future meetings have been set.

The district snakes north from South Willowbend and Chimney Rock through Southampton, Montrose, River Oaks and the Heights to Tidwell and Bingle.

She said she wants to hear about her constituents’ priorities and ideas for the district.

Submit ideas for infrastructure improvements to districtc@houstontx.gov.