If he were alive today, Mitchell Louis Westheimer would not recognize his namesake road. Mr. Westheimer (1831-1905) donated a portion of his land to Harris County to develop a road for farmers in the Alief area to transport their cotton, rice and other farm goods to Houston and beyond.
Today, Westheimer Road is the longest major thoroughfare in Texas and home to METRO’s most-popular bus route. Its eight-lane divided design is being enhanced by a Westchase District project that will completely transform how the street serves motorists, pedestrians and transit riders.
Except for the addition of new mast arms to replace the existing span wires, the Westheimer project won’t have any effect on the roadway itself. But it will have a big impact on pedestrians and transit riders. “We’re adding new, wider sidewalks, new pedestrian lighting, custom bus shelters and landscaping that will benefit pedestrians and the Westheimer retail experience,” said Irma Sanchez, Westchase District’s vice president of projects. “These improvements will enhance the retail space, better support transit operations and improve connectivity for pedestrians, all while making this major roadway more distinctive and attractive.”
Distinctive transit shelters added
The new transit shelters are made of aluminum and impact-resistant glass. They will become the new standard for Westchase District and will also be installed on Walnut Bend Lane, Elmside Drive and Woodchase Drive. The shelters feature seat blocks made of a concrete blend with a glossy finish, LED lighting, special paving, trash cans and upgraded signage. “These shelters are being installed under a partnership with METRO,” added Sanchez. “METRO contributed what they would have spent on shelters toward the cost of these new shelters.”
All transit stops on Westheimer are being re-built with 9-inch curbs. “The higher curbs mean that buses don’t have to ‘kneel,’” said Sanchez. “That means boarding times are quicker and lane stoppages are minimized.”
All of the shelters, sidewalks and curbs are also ADA-compliant. The new pedestrian lighting and traffic signals on the mast arms will be turned on in the next few weeks. And the remaining transit shelters will be installed this fall. The project will wrap up in late 2021, with some landscape improvements still to come.
The $16-million Westheimer Streetscape project includes $10.3 million in federal funds and $5.8 million from the 380 Area Program with the City of Houston.