Later this summer, Westchase District will move forward with the largest capital improvement project it has ever undertaken: a $20 million reconstruction of the section of Walnut Bend Lane that runs from Westpark Drive to Westheimer Road. Workers will reconstruct nearly 6,000 feet of roadway, construct enhanced sidewalks and upgrade underground public utility lines. Extensive improvements will include pedestrian lighting, dedicated bike lanes, custom bus shelters, extensive landscaping, bike racks, benches and signage.
With eight apartment and townhome communities, totaling 2,355 units lining the street, Walnut Bend is one of the most heavily traveled streets in Westchase District. About a decade ago, the District began looking at how to address deteriorating surface conditions on Walnut Bend such as failing concrete, shifting panels and uneven sidewalks. “We considered resurfacing it for about $1 million, but once we delved into the project, engineers discovered larger issues with underground water and sewer lines in dire need of updates,” said Irma Sanchez, Westchase District’s vice president of projects.
A popular route for commuters, school buses and METRO lines, Walnut Bend currently runs two lanes in each direction, but a combination of undefined on-street parking and a lack of clear lane markings make for inefficient and confusing travel. “We’ll narrow the roadway to two lanes, expanding to three lanes at intersections to allow for turning movements,” Sanchez said. “Also, we’ll create defined on-street parking areas near destinations where they make sense and won’t create visibility barriers.”
A model for others
The City of Houston has discussed using the District’s redesign of Walnut Bend as a model of a “complete street” that serves pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists and transit riders. “As other roadways across the city are scheduled for reconstruction, the City would like to take our model and apply it there,” Sanchez said.
The District’s 380 Program with the City of Houston covers about $4.4 million, Houston Public Works will contribute another $4.6 million and grants from the Federal Highway Administration and the Houston-Galveston Area Council will fund the rest of the $20 million project. The Texas Department of Transportation will oversee the construction process. The project is scheduled to begin this summer and will take about 20 months to complete.
“The plan is to start at Westpark and work our way north in sections to minimize the impact on traffic,” Sanchez said. “Expect some detours, but at least one lane of traffic will be maintained at all times, as will access to all of the properties. When the project is completed, Walnut Bend will better accommodate all users safely and be a catalyst for future development and redevelopment in the District.”