Yesterday concluded the extended initial public comment period for TxDOT’s expansion of I-45. This ambitious yet necessary undertaking will impact Houstonians who travel I-45 from the Beltway North all the way through downtown and will be tackled in several phases. TxDOT is expertly tracking and publicizing the developments on a website dedicated to the project, known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project:
We’ll be tracking the entire project since it will be transformative for Houston’s capacity for more residents, but we’re particularly interested in the part that directly affects our main neighborhoods of the Heights, Northside, and Garden Oaks/Oak Forest. In the grand scheme of the construction, this is Segment 2. Here’s what it will entail:
SEGMENT 2: I-610 TO I-10
New Roadway Capacity:
▪ Add four (4) managed express (MaX) lanes
▪ Add full-width shoulders
▪ Add bike/pedestrian features along frontage
▪ I-45 and I-610 frontage roads would be
continuous through the I-45/I-610
▪ Approximately 19 acres of new right-of-way
▪ Between Cottage Street and Norma Street,
mainlanes and MaX lanes would be
depressed, frontage roads would be at grade
▪ Opportunity for structural cap/open space
over depressed section (to be funded and built
by parties other than TxDOT)
We’re mostly interested in this last bullet. While it may sound rather technical or mundane, this “opportunity for a structural cap” actually has the potential to be a phenomenal, world-class greenspace innovation a la Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. In other words, since TxDOT will need to add some structural support for the expansion there is the opportunity to create a park (or something like a park) on the cap with the the expanded freeway flowing underneath.
In fact, Boulevard Realty Broker/Owner Bill Baldwin is part of a small steering committee formed by the Rice Design Alliance looking to create a vision for such an undertaking. The group is currently known as the North Main Bridge Park Design Competition Steering Committee, and as their name suggests, the primary charge of the group is to hold an international design competition where planners and architects from around the world will submit prospective designs for a greenspace that will span from North Street to Cottage over an expanded stretch of I-45.
The idea is that the winning design to emerge from this competition will provide the basis for a conservancy or public-private effort to bring the vision to life. This is very similar to the process that brought both Klyde Warren and NYC’s The High Line to life. Rice Design Alliance is no stranger to luminary design competitions, since it was their Heart of the Park competition that led to what we now recognize and love as Hermann Park. They also held a design competition for Sesquicentennial Park.
No one really knows what the final product will be. It really is open to interpretation, but many imagine it will be akin to Discovery Green or the Memorial Park Master Plan. If you are a landscape planner or architect, or even in the wide world of design, you should definitely look out for the competition’s call for submissions! The group truly wants to attract international expertise to lay out a vision to transform this phenomenal canvas, and add a human touch to infrastructure. One thing the committee knows for sure is that the bridge conceptually and quite literally will be reconnecting neighborhoods long bifurcated by I-45—Near Northside, The Heights, and many more.
So what happens next?
Currently, the steering committee and TxDOT are working closely to ensure that a mutually agreeable timeline for conducting the design competition more or less coincides with TxDOT’s plans to publish a final Environmental Impact Study and a Record of Decision in 2018. Truthfully, no one knows exactly when construction would begin, but these two documents will be a huge step toward a rough timeline. If we had to guess, the North Main Bridge Park, or whatever it shall be called, could be a reality within 10-20 years.
Meanwhile, the design competition itself will be taking place throughout next year. The first fundraiser and official competition kick-off will actually be held at Bill’s house in September (look out for an invitation or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the invitation list).
Clearly we are most excited about this particular part of the North Houston Highway Improvement, but we will certainly be following the other segments since those are just as impactful. Segment 3, which involves the Downtown Loop will be nothing short of transformative for residents and visitors to Houston alike.This entry was posted in Rediscover, Reinvent, Resources, Revisit
- 610 Loop
- beltway 8
- Bill Baldwin
- deck park
- Discovery Green
- freeway expansion
- Garden Oaks
- green space
- klyde warren park
- memorial park
- Near Northside
- north main bridge
- north main bridge alliance
- north main street
- Oak Forest