Bird’s Eye View: This picture of the Brays Bayou Connector Trail taken by a drone shows a stretch of the 1.92-mile trail as it runs south to Art Storey Park.
Only a year after its groundbreaking ceremony, the Brays Bayou Connector Trail (BBCT) is nearing completion and will be open for walkers, joggers and bicyclists by late spring. The 1.92-mile off-street trail features underpasses at Richmond Avenue, Westpark Drive, Westpark Tollway, Harwin Drive and Bellaire Boulevard. Ranging from eight- to 10-feet wide, the concrete path will include benches, water fountains, trash receptacles, landscaping, wildflowers, tree groves and a four-piece workout station. It’s the delivery of a first-class amenity long-envisioned by District staff and board members and is the culmination of years of negotiations, design and construction.
A challenging path
“One of our greatest challenges was finding the right partners for the job,” said Irma Sanchez, Westchase District’s vice president of projects. “We began this project during the midst of a citywide construction boom and had to bid it three times before we found a firm willing to do the work within our budget. Fortunately, Miranda Construction has done an outstanding job of building the trail to our high expectations.”
Aside from weather delays, one of Miranda’s biggest challenges was creating the S-shaped, curved retaining wall at the Westpark tollway underpass. “We had limited clearance between the trail and the bridge and we had to make sure we met accessibility standards,” said Enrique Allende, project engineer with Miranda. “It looks great now, but it was hard to visualize at the time as to how it would turn out.” When completed, the curve will have handrails and feature landscaped berms.
Linked to a METRO line
In addition to connecting to Harwin Park and Arthur Storey Park, the BBCT makes a direct connection to METRO’s Westchase Park & Ride facility on Harwin. This connection enables users access to METRO’s bus route 151 – the Westpark Express – which travels to downtown.
“METRO is proud to be partnering again with Westchase District to bring transit solutions for commuters,” said METRO President and CEO Tom Lambert. “Our internal engineering and design staff collaborated with the Westchase team to come up with a plan that safely connects the Park & Ride customers with the area’s evolving bike network. We’re looking forward to engaging more riders.”
Adding area interest
One new component along the BBCT – also to be installed on the District’s Library Loop Trail – is a series of wayfinding signs that will include information about the history and ecology of the area, as well as the role of transportation as a key theme to Westchase District. These metal “trail spikes” will be placed along the trails at key decision points as well as at areas of interest.
“We want to share with the public information about the Westchase area we’ve collected from previous historical research,” said Louis Jullien, Westchase District’s projects director. “The information on these signs will give trail users some interesting knowledge at a glance about such important figures as Bob Smith, Mitchell Louis Westheimer and Clifford Mooers, all businessmen who played a key role in acquiring the land in and around Westchase District. The signs also discuss the roles that German and Asian immigrants played in the early growth of the Alief area.”
In addition to historical facts, the trail spikes will describe the flora and fauna often seen along the trails. “Most people wouldn’t consider that our flood control channels qualify as Texas wetlands, but they do,” Jullien said. “We want them to be appreciated not only for their role in flood control, but as natural resources that contribute to water quality and wildlife habitat.” Jullien said users can expect to learn about everything from the trees to the birds to the aquatic life all found along the District’s trail network.
Eager to access
Though not officially open to the public, Sanchez said she has seen office workers out walking on sections of the trail. About a dozen businesses are either adjacent to the trail or a short walk to it, which means that thousands of area employees have access to BBCT for lunchtime strolls or break time speed walks.
“We have a lot of employees who walk our parking lot during lunch, so I think many of them will use the trail, especially now that our six days of winter are over,” said Michael Swick, facilities manager with M-I SWACO, whose building backs up to the BBCT. “I’ve already walked a bit of it myself just to see where it leads. I’ve seen them putting in benches and sprinkler heads – it seems pretty nice.”
Be on the lookout for information about a BBCT ribbon cutting ceremony in future issues of The Wire, our e-newsletter sent twice monthly, or via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media channels.