Bipartisan Bill Filed Creating Hike & Bike Paths From Houston's Utility Easements

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People have been talking about it for years, but the idea came one step closer to reality this week when a bipartisan group of legislators filed bills to help create hike-and-bike paths along Houston's utility easements.

Those easements -- the property surrounding, say, those large electricity towers carrying power along the grid -- cross the city, as that linked map shows.

They offer two key advantages over the current method of amassing property for trails -- they don't have to be done piecemeal, with time-consuming and expensive tracking down of owners and then making offers, and they include north-south routes. Current paths tend to follow the city's bayous, which go east-west. The easements would allow a lot more intersecting and connection of paths.

The bills, which apply only to Harris County, were filed in the Senate by Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and in the House by Jim Murphy (R-Houston), Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) and Garnet Coleman (D-Houston).

Utilities will all but donate the land to the public and in exchange they will be given a large degree of immunity from liability in lawsuits. (So ride careful out there.) Up to 135 miles of trails could be created under a plan approved by voters last year.

"The people of Houston have said loud and clear that they want more hike-and-bike trails," said Ellis. "But it has become very difficult to acquire the land in urban areas like Houston that is suitable for development of trails. This legislation is a unique and innovative compromise solution to develop new trails without undue delays and excess cost."

"We've worked for several sessions to develop this solution for these trails," said Murphy. "These bills provide significant savings to taxpayers, improve transportation infrastructure and expand recreational opportunities. They also protect our trail users and those civic-minded companies who provide their property."

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