Multi-million project continues to redefine White Oak Bayou

May. 8, 2015Heights Leader

It’s a good time to be a bike enthusiast and bayou lover in Houston. While the new hike and bike bridge – the former MKT Railroad Bridge – between Shepherd Drive and Moy Street has been operational for a while, the official “Bridge Bash” and dedication ceremony was held May 2.

White Oak BayouPart of Bayou Greenways 2020, which will create a continuous park system along Houston’s major waterways, and put 60 percent of all Houstonians within 1.5 miles of the bayou greenway, the newest trail segment connects the White Oak Bayou trails to the Heights trail.

Funding for the bridge and the connecting trails came from the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority and TIRZ 5 (Memorial Heights Reinvestment Zone). Additional contributors to the White Oak Bayou Greenway include the Brown Foundation, Wortham Foundation, Houston Endowment and Fondren Foundation.

A City of Houston federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will fund construction of the trails along the bayou from the new bridge to existing bayou trails north of W 11th St. The total cost of the project will be $5 million and construction is underway.

“Residents can reimagine how they gain access to downtown, to shopping and places of employment in way that is so uniquely Houston: along a bayou,” said Mayor Annise Parker.

And the connectivity will only continue. The section of the White Oak Bayou trail that links Antoine to Alabonson will be open by mid-June. Bids will also go out this summer for the section of the White Oak Bayou Greenway which will extend from Alabonson to the city limits, after permits from Harris County Flood Control and City of Houston come in, according to Houston Parks Board Communications Manager Catherine Butsch.

Butsch said the Houston Park Board has also received bids from several construction companies for an additional scenic trail along the bayou all the way to Studemont Street by Olivewood Cemetery, south of 1-10. The Houston Parks Board and the board of TIRZ 5 will soon review the bids and make a decision about who to hire for the project which will begin construction this summer.

“It will give people more exposure to the bayou,” said Houston Parks Board Executive Director Roksan Okan-Vick.

As for the last leg of the White Oak Bayou trail which would pass by the University of Houston Downtown, and for the trails that would connect Buffalo Bayou to the Memorial area, Butsch said they are still working on the bidding process on these segments, and flood control has them under review.

They expect to begin construction sometime in fiscal year 2016 which for them means July 1, 2015 to June 31, 2016, the same as the city’s fiscal year.

Because the White Oak Bayou trails were the first to be constructed, they will be the first completed Bayou Greenway inside Houston city limits, probably by summer 2016. The bayou greenways that are being added as part of Bayou Greenways 2020 typically include a ten-foot-wide shared-use concrete trail and a linear, public greenspace adjacent to the bayou.

Last week, The Leader reported on the Hildebrand Foundation’s $10 pledge to the Houston Parks Board. Butsch said that the gift of $10 million gets the parks board to more than $90 million of their $120 million fundraising goal. The other $100 million for the $220 million Bayou Greenways 2020 project came from city bonds, approved overwhelmingly by Houston voters in 2012.

Anyone who is interested in staying abreast of future developments is encouraged to sign up for email updates at houstonparksboard.org.