The Missouri, Kansas, Texas Southern Pacific railroad (try to say that three times fast) Rails-to-Trails project in the Heights is finally underway. After the official groundbreaking ceremony last December, men in hard hats and neon vests have situated construction signs along the newly cultivated dirt path.
Alvin Wright of the Public Works Department tells Hair Balls the project seems to be moving along pretty much as planned, if only there were some way to alleviate those pesky bridge fires.
"Vandals have repeatedly set fire to our wooden railroad bridges over White Oak Bayou," Wright told Hair Balls. "Timber-constructed bridges are at risk to arson, (but) we kept the wooden bridges as part of the project because of their historical nature [and] structural integrity, as well as to emphasize the 'rail to trail' aspects of this project."
The 4.62 mile, concrete hike-and-bike trail will follow 7th Street through White Oak Bayou under Interstate 45 and will eventually connect with the Houston Heritage Corridor West Trail and other bikeways through Downtown.
"The trail will provide great connectivity throughout the historic Heights, including schools, parks and local businesses," Wright said. "[It] will also improve bicyclist mobility by linking to bike lanes along Heights Boulevard and 20th Street, as well as provide a new bike link underneath Interstate 10 and across White Oak Bayou."
The MKT trail is one of three Rails-to-Trails projects currently under construction and should be finished come December.
"Once the trail is open to the public, we hope that the bikeway will be well used," Wright told Hair Balls. "We're making great progress...and if we experience no further difficulties, it may be completed earlier."
But don't hold your breath. The project did experience some resistance from a couple of residents early on (easily put to rest after a little finagling by the city) and has seen its share of problems here and there (did we mention the fires?).
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When it's done, the city plans to celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony similar to the groundbreaking, which was "very well attended."
"Heights residents are one of the most bicycle-friendly areas within the City of Houston," Wright told Hair Balls. "We anticipate that many people and organizations would like to be involved in celebrating the completion of this project."