Project progression maps can help people anticipate future traffic delays
The $40 million reconstruction of one Houston’s most beloved yet busy thoroughfares is, as expected, fueling complaints from motorists driving through the first intersection under construction for the two-and-a-half year rebuild through The Energy Corridor.
But despite rain gauge-topping precipitation since the City of Houston began reconstructing Memorial Drive earlier this year, the contractor, Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc., has asked for only one additional rain date, and the considerable project remains on schedule for completion in mid-2018.
Motorists frustrated by construction, traffic delays and narrower, remarked lanes at the Kirkwood-Memorial Dr. intersection have been flooding Houston Council Member District G Greg Travis’s office with complaints. On a project this size, that’s not unusual. What concerns Travis and his staff, says Mark F. Kirschke, director of Constituent Services & Communications, is not only the wellbeing of motorists and construction workers, but also the safety of nearby neighborhoods now dealing with cut-through traffic.
A few months into the project, Travis’s office has taken an assertive approach to the project, seeking solutions and refinements with city Public Works & Engineering officials and the contractor.
Taking it out on traffic control
But motorists are not making it easy. On a recent visit to the intersection, drivers were seen charging around safety barrels, even over them, while ignoring flagman and even Houston Police Department (HPD) traffic officers.
The flip side is that the city’s traffic control plan has made navigating the construction zone confusing for many motorists. Travis and his staff are working with the city to revise its traffic control plan back to the one originally proposed by the contractor.
District G Council staff is also seeking solutions to mitigate cut-through traffic in normally quiet neighborhoods, such as investigating the installation of temporary speed cushions. They’ve also asked the contractor to walk the site daily to ensure safety barrels are back in place, and are working with the city to seek project change orders that could add additional HPD officers.
“The project is on schedule, and we’re trying to address every complaint as best as possible and making sure issues get addressed,” Kirschke explains. “With such a limited (width) roadway, there’s only so much the contractor can do for traffic flow.”
One issue Travis has pushed for is to complete the work in front of Meadow Wood Elementary School by August 1, in time for fall classes. The construction induced the Spring Branch Independent School District to cancel summer classes at the school.
Progression Schedule Maps can help
Motorists can plan and anticipate future Memorial Drive roadwork by viewing the project’s Progression Schedule Maps, downloadable at The District’s online resource library here.
All told, more than 16,000 linear feet of roadway are being reconstructed using nearly 90,000 square yards of 10-inch reinforced concrete pavements with curbs and gutters. About 5,000 linear feet of storm water pipe, 8,700 linear feet of water line and 9,400 linear feet of sanitary sewer lines will be installed along Memorial Drive. Sewer and water line work will replace existing storm water ditches, while the Turkey Creek bridge will be rebuilt with a triple box culvert to improve drainage.
When all is said and done
Reconstructing a major road like Memorial Drive is never easy, says Clark Martinson, general manager for The Energy Corridor District. But population and employment growth in West Houston demands a better, safer Memorial Drive, he says.
“When it’s over, Energy Corridor residents, businesses and employees will see a more thought-out, safer street with improved drainage systems in place, along with new sidewalks, bike turn lanes, street lighting, traffic signals, wheelchair ramps and a pedestrian-friendly intersection at Memorial and Eldridge Parkway,” Martinson explains.
The District developed plans to transform that intersection with safer, well-marked crossings to encourage walking and biking.
A helping hand to local business
“It’s a stressful time on businesses affected by the project,” says Kirschke. “We encourage people to please make an effort to visit businesses there despite the inconvenience. A favorite hardware store, restaurant, whatever it is, please make your way to local businesses that you want to see survive.”