It’s a project more than ten years in the making. Construction began in February on Westchase District’s $16 million project to transform Westheimer Road.
When the Westchase District Board of Directors created its long-range plan in 2006, one of the six actionable goals was to “transform streets into more attractive and convenient places.” Today, that goal is being realized in two separate multi-million dollar projects: the complete rebuild of Walnut Bend Lane and the upcoming Westheimer streetscapes project.
The Westheimer project won’t affect the roadway itself. Westheimer, which is one of the most heavily traveled roads in Houston and home of METRO’s busiest bus route, is a state farm-to-market road, owned and maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation. The Westchase District improvements will all be “back-of-curb,” meaning that it won’t impact the driving lanes but will have a substantial impact on the pedestrian realm.
“We’re adding new, wider sidewalks, new pedestrian lighting, custom bus shelters and landscaping that will have a positive impact on pedestrians and the Westheimer retail experience,” said Irma Sanchez, Westchase District’s vice president of projects. “These improvements will benefit the retail space, better support transit operations and improve connectivity for pedestrians, all while make this major roadway more distinctive and attractive.”
The Westheimer Streetscape project includes $10.3 million in federal funds under H-GAC’s Transportation Improvement Program and $5.8 million from the 380 Area Program with the City of Houston. METRO is a supporting partner of the project.
Sanchez and her projects staff also received more than 50 easements from property owners along Westheimer. “We solicited these easements because some of the improvements require additional right-of-way to meet ADA requirements,” said Sanchez. “When we explained the significance of the improvements and the positive affect it will have on their property values, our owners were happy to provide easements. It’s a great partnership with our stakeholders.”
Some area residents and property owners may recall participating in community input meetings on this project back in the spring of 2015. “That was really the first step,” added Sanchez. “After receiving input from the community regarding the improvements they wanted to see, we began to develop plans and cost estimates. Five years later, we’re ready to begin construction.”
Crews began work on the east end of Westchase District near Westerland Drive. They’ll work westward on the north side of the street to Kirkwood, then turn around and work eastward on the south side of the street. The project will take approximately 20 months to complete.
“In the end, I’m confident that the improvements will be welcomed by everyone who works or lives in Westchase District and even those who just travel through on a daily basis,” said Sanchez. “Pedestrians will love the improved tree canopy and the 6-8 foot wide sidewalks. Motorists will appreciate the improved traffic signals and mast arms. There is something for everyone to like and the project will ultimately spur development and improve property values on Westheimer.”