City seeks public input on W. Alabama reconstruction

Aug. 6, 2015West U Examiner

Over 200 residents gathered at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Montrose on Thursday evening, July 30, for a public meeting hosted by Houston City Council Member Ellen Cohen and the Public Works & Engineering Department to gather public input for the reconstruction of W. Alabama St.

In a presentation Senior Assistant Director Carol Haddock explained that the street will no longer utilize a reversible lane and that the plan includes a dedicated bicycle lane.

“When we were looking at this piece of W. Alabama we laid out a set of priorities we needed to address. We needed to look at lane configurations, and we heard from the community and it was already in our Bike Master Plan, that W. Alabama was going to have a corridor where bikes didn’t just ride in the streets,” Haddock said.

Khristen Lister, a resident of Montrose, often rides her bicycle down W. Alabama, either recreationally or while running errands around her neighborhood. She says she likes the idea of a dedicated bike lane down W. Alabama.

“I think we need for bike lanes in Houston, cars are not always aware of cyclists and a bike lane offers more protection than just cycling in a lane of traffic,” Lister said.

Reconstruction of the street will be divided into four segments in partnership with the Upper Kirby TIRZ and Midtown TIRZ.

The first segment of the project which is expected to cost close to $8 million dollars, will be spearheaded by the city of Houston, and will be funded by Rebuild Houston, an initiative approved by voters in 2010 that allows the city to form a pay-as-you-go fund to maintain the infrastructure, and to plan upgrades to meet future needs as the city grows.

“Throughout our city we have a lot of needs and Rebuild Houston has formalized that process so that we tackle the worst first, the projects that have the greatest needs whether age, drainage concerns, or traffic, and making sure that we address the communities that benefits the greatest number of people.”

The proposed project has two options which differentiate based on the usage of right-of-way. In Option 1, has two lanes of one 11 ft continuous turn lane and two 11 ft. travel lanes that include a five ft. bicycle lane on each side as well as two five ft. sidewalks on both sides of the streets. This option allows for less conflict between bicyclists and drivers, but may require the acquisition of more right-of-way.

The second option creates a 10 ft off-street shared sidewalk for both pedestrians and bicyclists on the north side of the street and a five ft. sidewalk on the south side. This option allows for less right-of-way acquisition and the preservation of trees.

“There are two different options with the right of way width that we have, it’s about what works best without disturbing trees and too much right of way acquisition through the whole corridor,” said Paresh Lad, senior project manager for Public Works.

“The off-street is the preferred plan; however we are trying to get input from everyone.”

Designs for the first segment are currently being finalized and construction is expected to begin in late 2016.

The general public has until Aug. 30 to submit a comment. For more information on the project or to submit a comment, visit Rebuildhouston.org.