Falling in line with the greater, citywide push for comprehensive bike and pedestrian infrastructure, the Westchase District has put together its own sweeping plan.
Completed last month, the plan seeks to repair disconnected and deteriorating sidewalks, add 40 to 50 miles of safe, widened, on-street bike lanes, and pave roughly 20 miles of shared-use paths and trails connecting residents to places like Houston Community College, Arthur Storey Park and the local public library.
"We're trying to attract the younger demographic to this area," said Irma Sanchez, the Westchase District's vice president of projects. "And in order to attract that demographic, we realized we have to change our infrastructure and our old habits. We were not developed [in the 1970s] to accommodate the kind of transit you see millennials wanting in their communities: They want to be able to walk or to cycle or to take transit, going along with that green movement."
Sanchez said that the last time the biking infrastructure was maintained was when the City of Houston painted a thin stripe along the side of various streets in the mid-1990s, having never returned to repair or improve the lanes. (This outdated infrastructure was one of the major impetuses behind the city's own bike plan.) Instead of seeking to salvage those all-but-crumbling lanes, Sanchez said the district wants to entirely relocate most of them to streets with less traffic and lower speed limits so people will be safer sharing the road with cars.
The shared-use paths will also provide another alternative for leisurely riders who would prefer to stay away from Houston drivers, Sanchez said.
"Some people just don't feel safe riding with traffic. We think that once we get them out onto the shared-use, off-road path, at some point they'll have to cross the street, but they're more likely to use those paths," Sanchez said. "We're trying to identify those areas where we can build shared-use paths that connect to roadways" — such as Westheimer Road, Metro's busiest public transportation corridor.
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Save for a few projects that break ground this year, such as the HCC Campus Trail and the Brays Bayou Connector Trail, Sanchez said there isn't a timeline as to when the full plan can be completed. That will depend on funding, she said, which is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Beyond funding coming straight out of Westchase District's pocket, most other money will come from local community partners, such as the Westchase Community Association, from the Federal Transit Administration in the form of grant money, and from property taxes. The seven projects are expected to cost $3.5 million, though the total cost has yet to be been determined. The City of Houston still must approve all projects before they proceed.