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#1 2005-01-22 18:35:18

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Here are a couple of stories from far North Harris County.  The first is an update on the Grand Parkway, which may become a county project through the Toll Road Authority.  Some residents in Spring who oppose this segment of the Grand Parkway, have fought TxDOT over where this section should be built.  The current placement would put it through a rural area of Spring populated with family farms and older subdivisions that could literally be cut in half by the parkway. 

State Sen. Jon Lindsay is in favor of the project along with Harris County and some developers, while state Rep. Debbie Riddle is working on behalf of residents to fight the current placement of the parkway.  But if the county takes over the project from the state, then residents who oppose the project will be out of luck, because the county does not have the same requirements, as the state does, to do environmental impact studies or to hold public meetings to discuss projects, as this recent KHOU-11 story pointed out:

What many may not know is the Harris County Toll Road Authority, unlike TxDOT, can build a toll road anywhere it wants without public approval.

[snip]

The Toll Road Authority said even though it doesn't have open forums, it has never gone against public outcry to build a project.

Grand Parkway opponents may test the Toll Road Authority on that.

Full disclosure time:  I live in this area and I am not in favor of the Grand Parkway, if it runs through our little community.  But, the realist in me believes the parkway will be built, right through our quiet little area and we will say goodbye to that nice sleepy quality that makes this community so enjoyable.  After it is built, commuters from The Woodlands will flood Gosling Rd. and Kuykendahl Rd. to get to the parkway and both roads will have to be widened.  Then new business and housing developments will spring up all along those feeder roads and the parkway itself.  Ahhh, progress. 



The second story I found in a post on the Houston Architecture Info blog.  It references a Chronicle story from earlier in January about Harris and Montgomery Counties working together to preserve open space along Spring Creek:

Montgomery County Precinct 3 and Harris County Precinct 4 are working to develop an 8,000- to 12,000-acre regional preserve along Spring Creek, the dividing line between the counties.

With commercial and housing developments quickly moving north, officials from both counties say now is the time to protect the creek and the forestland around it.

[snip]

Spring Creek is a hidden oasis of white sandy banks lined by a thick forest of cypress, sycamore and Eastern red cedar trees, many more than 200 years old. A variety of wildlife and birds, including bobcats, deer, white cranes and red-shouldered hawks, live in the area and sometimes can be spotted from the shore or through the woods.

The creek is one of only two in Harris County still untouched by development. Clear Creek is the other.

The comments responding to this article are also interesting to read.


Link to post: http://www.bloghouston.net/item/607

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#2 2005-01-22 21:57:29

chw9989
Member
From: Clear Lake City
Registered: 2004-12-25
Posts: 66

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

FWIW Margaret Downing wrote a feature in the Press about this back in September,  which focused on some of the changes that would be imposed on local residents by making the Spring Creek area into a park, and some of the local opposition that's sprung up because of those limits. I didn't re-read the article before posting this, but as I remember the local concerns were mainly of the same ilk as your points about the drawbacks of the Grand Parkway - i.e. creating the park would end some of the 'countrified' aspects of life in the area by putting rules around use of the Spring Creek green spaces.

Last edited by chw9989 (2005-01-22 21:58:46)

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#3 2005-01-23 02:02:07

Steelsun
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2004-10-05
Posts: 293
Website

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

This proposed parkway is crap. Doesn't the Beltway serve the same function?


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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#4 2005-01-23 08:05:04

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

chw9989:  It is interesting up where we live because it is a little spot that is countrified, as you put it so well.  However, between this stupid Grand Parkway (and I've seen Ft. Bend County's GrandParkway -- it took a HUGE swath of land) and the deforestation, it seems to be changing overnight.  It's really a shame.

Steelsun:  I agree -- the parkway is crap!  A MUD board member up here made an interesting comment:

"I agree with former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier's statement, 'What we need is more spokes coming out the city, not more wheels, or circles around the city,' added Warren.

"The circles for 249, Beltway 8 and the 610 Loop have been started, but none of them have been completed. Now they want to begin a fourth circle by building the proposed Grand Parkway," said Warren. "What the area needs is to widen Ella Boulevard, T.C. Jester, Kuykendahl and Gosling."

I'm not an expert, but that makes sense to me.

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#5 2005-01-24 08:33:18

rorschach
Member
From: Spring, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-05
Posts: 3,926
Website

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

I have to agree that we need more spokes. Ella needs to be reconnected north of 1960 and made the four divided lanes it was originally designed to be. sure it will cut cypresswood subdivision in half, but it was supposed to do that from the beginning. the ROW already exists to do that. the only section that will need more ROW is the section between spring cypress and 2920 which used to be falvel road.

I live in the area too Anne, (enchanted oaks, next street over from the cancer cluster that everyone thinks is due to the microwave tower owned by AT&T).
what part of spring do you live in?


http://redinktexas.blogspot.com/
"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

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#6 2005-01-24 14:09:05

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

I think my feelings on the parkway and the park go back to an earlier discussion we had on Chronicallybiased.com before they did away with the comments section and stopped listening to reader input when they became lonestartimes.com.  In the earlier discussion, we were really discussing Metro and light rail, but the discussion turned and became centered on the role of central planning and directed development.  I for one think it is ridiculous to continue spending our tax dollars to encourage people to live farther and farther out of town.  By creating loops instead of spokes, we encourage the development to move out of Houston and into the suburbs.  Instead of taking advantage of the infrastructure that already exists inside BW-8, we create a "need" for more development out around the Grand Parkway to support the growth of the population that exists there.  By using tax payer dollars to build the highways, we artificially lower the cost of developing the land and subsidize the destruction of the "country" that makes living in the "country" so appealing. How many times do we need to watch development and destruction of habitat march outward from our major cities like the shockwave from a nuclear weapon leaving waste and destruction in its wake before we recognize the need to spend our tax dollars encouraging redevelopment in the city instead of subsidizing the destruction.

For anybody who wants to see what Houston's future looks like if we keep this up, go to Detroit, Michigan.  As the development there kept moving outward from the city, all of the areas in suburban detroit incorporated into cities to avoid being annexed, and Detroit died as a city due to the flow of growth and tax dollars out to the suburbs.  Today, with the exception of the casinos recently built downtown, most efforts to revitalize the city of Detroit proper have been miserable failures.  There simply isn't the infrastructure left to lure people accustomed to life in the burbs back into the city and keep them there.  The city landscape is a wasteland of abandoned houses, burned out buildings, and boarded up businesses.  The suburbs become more vibrant and more attractive the farther you get from the city limits of Detroit, because most of the smaller cities were smart enough to do something to control their development.  They were willing to preserve park space, they were willing to encourage developers to leave green belts and to discourage total clearing of habitat prior to development.  All of the things that keep some little bit of the "country" in the country happen in the suburbs and never happened in the city itself.

I know I will surely be attacked as an eco whack job or told that my ideas intrude on the rights of the developers to clearcut the towering forests from their land and bulldoze it all down to bare dirt before they build houses and plant non-native crap myrtles in every yard, but reality is reality.  People like trees and parks and they like to see deer and squirrels.  That is why places like Kingwood and the Woodlands are more successful than other types of developments in the city.  They take the time and effort to plan their development, and they take seriously the restrictions they place on development that would blight the area they are working so hard to create.  If the grand parkway comes through and every square inch of spring is developed into concrete and steel, people will move away to the suburbs again, seeking the trees and squirrels and deer that they used to see.  And one more area of Houston will become another wasteland of half-empty strip centers and boarded up wal-marts.

I am all for development and traffic efficiency, but we shouldn't promote them at the expense of all of the other things we valued when we chose to build our homes where we did.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#7 2005-01-24 18:28:06

Kevin
Administrator
From: Tanglewilde
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 6,929

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Bill F wrote:

I think my feelings on the parkway and the park go back to an earlier discussion we had on Chronicallybiased.com before they did away with the comments section and stopped listening to reader input when they became lonestartimes.com.

Their loss is our gain! smile

I hope they bring back discussion of some sort again. I think a lot of KSEV listeners appreciated the comments.

I know I will surely be attacked as an eco whack job or told that my ideas intrude on the rights of the developers to clearcut the towering forests from their land and bulldoze it all down to bare dirt before they build houses and plant non-native crap myrtles in every yard, but reality is reality.  People like trees and parks and they like to see deer and squirrels.  That is why places like Kingwood and the Woodlands are more successful than other types of developments in the city.  They take the time and effort to plan their development, and they take seriously the restrictions they place on development that would blight the area they are working so hard to create.  If the grand parkway comes through and every square inch of spring is developed into concrete and steel, people will move away to the suburbs again, seeking the trees and squirrels and deer that they used to see.  And one more area of Houston will become another wasteland of half-empty strip centers and boarded up wal-marts.

Nah, we try to keep things civil here (aside from, you know, that unfortunate misunderstanding by a certain Chron blogger about alleged death wishes).

I do think we need to debate our expenditure of transportation and development dollars carefully. On transportation, there's certainly a case to be made that Houston ought not throw too much money at making it easy for folks to commute in from other taxing localities to make their living, and get back out to spend their money outside of Houston. smile Then again, I think there's a further case to be made that we needed not to spend what we did on the toy train because many affluent people thought it would be fun and "world class" to have it downtown (and to heck with those less affluent folks who depend on the bus system that's had it services cut). On development, we don't necessarily want to be like some communities that make it impossible to develop anything, ever -- but then again, maybe your nuclear weapon scenario isn't best either. There has to be some balance we can achieve.

Maybe folks are gonna call ME an eco nut now. smile

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#8 2005-01-24 18:52:32

rorschach
Member
From: Spring, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-05
Posts: 3,926
Website

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

As a person that fled the city limits to the 'burbs, I can tell you why I did so. It really didn't have anything to do with squirrels and trees, it had everything to do with the fact that my daughter was turning school age and the school in the neighborhood I lived in was barely acceptable per TEC. Add to the fact there was a crack house across the street and gang sign on every flat surface made me feel unsafe. believe it or not, my house was appreciating in value in spite of that, but that was not reason enough to stay. Now I live within walking distance of one of the best elementary schools in the houston metro area, and I actually know my neighbors and like them. given that situation, wouldn't you move?


http://redinktexas.blogspot.com/
"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

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#9 2005-01-24 19:20:58

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

I agree that the light rail line we have was a disastrous place to start a commuter rail experiment.  It served no useful purpose except to try to lure the Olympics.  Once that failed, they actually had to try to make it work, and we can see what a disaster that has been.

As for how we spend our transit dollars, I have to admit that as much as I hated how Mayor Lanier went about it, he had a good point hidden away in his arguments for annexing Kingwood.  The fact was that Kingwood residents were eating up alot of Metro dollars and forcing the City to spend alot of money dealing with traffic and congestion that Kingwood residents had a large hand in creating by living in Kingwood and working downtown.  While forced annexation, destruction of the level of public services, and increased taxes and fees were absolutely the wrong way to go about fixing the problem, the fact remains that residents in suburbs outside of the city DO represent a large portion of the traffic and congestion on Houston's major highways, and there SHOULD be some mechanism by which the cost of keeping up with that congestion can placed more squarely on those who create it.  As it is, by taking tax dollars from all over the Metro service area and from state and federal sources to pay for highway expansion out to Katy and beyond, we are subsidizing the destruction of the Katy Prairie, which is a world class wildlife habitat.  The beneficiaries of that subsidy are the residents who can now build thousands more homes on the prairie, flood Houston with excess runoff, and clog the soon to be newly widened Katy Freeway with even more traffic, all while buying relatively cheap houses and paying cheap Ft. Bend and Waller county taxes, vehicle insurance rates, and vehicle registration fees.  I say the houses are "relatively cheap", because they don't factor in the cost of the highways and other infrastructure already constructed to accomodate them.  Think what a home in Cinco Ranch would cost if the developer had been forced to pay 10% of the expansion costs for the Katy Freeway?  Why are we spending tax dollars from all over the county, state, and country to subsidize those new homes?


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#10 2005-01-24 19:24:46

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

I never said that nature was the only reason people move to the burbs Rorschach.  Your reason is a compelling one as well.  However, the flight of investment and tax dollars to the suburbs plays a big part in the demise of inner city educational systems as well.  I won't even get into teacher's unions and educrats.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#11 2005-01-24 21:00:24

mattbramanti
Member
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-04
Posts: 507
Website

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Bill F wrote:

I think my feelings on the parkway and the park go back to an earlier discussion we had on Chronicallybiased.com before they did away with the comments section and stopped listening to reader input when they became lonestartimes.com.

Hey Bill, good to hear from you again. I've got to take issue with your comment. Lone Star Times does not have public comments, but that doesn't mean we don't listen to reader input. I hear from readers every day, and I update my posts to reflect their comments. The interaction has just taken a different form.

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#12 2005-01-25 10:32:36

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Lets just say there isn't much in the way of two way exchange of opinion available over there.  I don't miss the insult wars or the trolls that used to show up there, but I do miss having the ability to provide counterpoint to some of the blanket statements made on some issues over there.  I have sent quite a few emails on various topics to the lsteditors email address, with the only response being the posting of some tsunami technical info.  The rest have disappeared into a black hole, never to be heard from again.  I guess part of it is that I typically don't have any issues with most of what you write, and several of the others apparently don't use a separate email address to receive comments on their writings.

Either way, I like the forum here better.  For now, there seems to be a refreshing absence of trolls, and everybody so far seems very open-minded to a variety of viewpoints, without being locked into any given ideological position.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#13 2005-01-25 15:01:39

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Just an update. The Harris County Commissioner's Court overwhelmingly approved the expenditure of millions of dollars this morning for a redundant study of proposed alignments for the Grand Parkway. There was a small contingent of ne'er-do-wells there in attendance who actually had the audacity to challenge the wisdom of the court but to no avail. And so it goes....

For more information, please visit the opposition to the Grand Parkway website at http://mypeoplepc.com/members/chrisodon … ourspring/

Oh, and if you click on the first link shown, you will see a new map floating around the Spring area this month that carries the TxDOT, HCTRA and GPA symbols on it, dated January 2005, that shows the one and only route HCTRA is studying (as opposed to the five or more being studied by the GPA), Route E, which is just about 1,000 feet from the main entrance of Klein Oak High School. Sad, indeed!

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#14 2005-01-25 15:15:42

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Why would the county commissioners be interested in any other route?  I am sure that by now, they and their major contributors have had ample opportunity to purchase as much of the land along their selected route as possible.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#15 2005-01-25 16:30:18

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

connie wrote:

Just an update. The Harris County Commissioner's Court overwhelmingly approved the expenditure of millions of dollars this morning for a redundant study of proposed alignments for the Grand Parkway. There was a small contingent of ne'er-do-wells there in attendance who actually had the audacity to challenge the wisdom of the court but to no avail. And so it goes....


Does this mean the Toll Road Authority is taking it over?  Can the state do anything to keep it out of the TRA's hands?  Sigh.  This is so discouraging.

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#16 2005-01-25 16:38:54

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Does this mean the Toll Road Authority is taking it over?

What it means, Anne, is that the HCTRA will be generating a schematic to shop to bond firms in order to show the revenue-generating potentiality. As Art Storey said this morning, it may or may not show that to be true, in which case HCTRA would let it go by the wayside and let Texas Turnpike Authority take it over. HCTRA has kind of the "first right of refusal" on this project, according to my sources at TxDOT and GPA. But, if it indeed does favorably show the potential revenues, then HCTRA can immediately step in, take control and cease and desist on the federally mandated guidelines for environmental review because HCTRA does not have to abide by these same rules. That's when it could get REAL UGLY, REAL QUICK! No more public involvement, no more public participation at all, everything behind closed doors.

Nothing is set in stone just yet, though. HCTRA is still subsidizing the Hardy tollroad (another Lindsay project) with revenues from the Sam Houston Tollway. Last estimate, the Hardy is losing $10 MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR! Bond firms do tend to take into account past history, and this (another Lindsay project) will draw inevitable comparisons to the rosy picture Lindsay once painted for the Hardy. The HCTRA may say that it is flush with cash, but it will still have to sell bonds (revenue, not tax as pointed out this morning by Mike Strech of HCTRA) because it is facing a crisis with the tollroads already built going into rapid decay with no money to fix them. That's something HCTRA doesn't like to discuss with the public. These roads do require constant repair and maintenance, and that needs to figured in.

Last edited by connie (2005-01-25 16:43:10)

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#17 2005-01-25 17:27:40

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

I am really starting to dislike Senator Lindsay.  From his refusal to support a 3% appraisal cap while owning huge chunks of property in North Houston that he pays virtually no taxes on, to his support of the HCTRA takeover of the GP, I just seem to always see him being really active when it suits his own personal financial interests.  I would be willing to bet that the new proposed route favored by HCTRA goes right past a bunch of property Lindsay owns. 

Is there anybody out there that we can get to challenge him in a GOP runoff?  I would sure love to have a strong alternative next time he runs for office.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#18 2005-01-25 17:34:27

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Funny you should mention that! We discussed that this very morning at the county courthouse, and we will announce candidates to oppose not just Lindsay, but Eversole and Eckels positions as well. They're toast!

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#19 2005-01-25 21:51:58

ttyler5
Member
Registered: 2005-01-13
Posts: 457

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

OK, here is where all the discussion of the GP is taking place. I posted this info earlier at the A. Lineham article on "Tollway" but nobody has seen it, so here goes:

The GP is a very old plan, Texas has full disclosure laws governing property sales.

The first time I saw them applied in legal actions, it was over the Brio Superfund site near Friendswood.

Have you looked into how these laws might apply to the GP ROW? For one, it can certainly make it a very expensive proposition for anyone to get your land.

EG, are the same people ( not neccessarily companies!) who sold your property to you now trying to get it back for the GP, and did they tell you the property you bought was possibly on the GP ROW?  How about everybody else?

In the Brio fiacso, it really added up fast because the developer had failed to disclose.

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#20 2005-01-26 07:58:05

mattbramanti
Member
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-04
Posts: 507
Website

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Tyler, what do you mean by "full disclosure" laws? Texas is one of the few states that doesn't require that the price of property transactions be disclosed.

Update: I see you mean before the fact. My bad.

Last edited by Matt (2005-01-26 10:46:55)

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#21 2005-01-26 13:49:07

ttyler5
Member
Registered: 2005-01-13
Posts: 457

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Oh, yeah, Matt, I was talking about disclosure before sale.

Also though, the Brio case was a long time ago and I don't recall all the details.

An attorney who I am sure would be able to fully advise on this is Jim Blackburn. I would recommend contacting him first about a consultation on the matter, if anyone in the areas affected by the proposed GP routes is interested in exploring this.

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#22 2005-01-26 16:01:01

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

The coalition of United to Save Our Spring has retained the legal counsel of Jim Blackburn; we think he is wonderful! I will check into the "full disclosure" requirements a little more closely. That may be one way to shut this process of "back room deals" down. Senator Lindsay's comment that he knows of ten developers who would donate land for this project is being called into question. If he is lying, he will be exposed. If the developers (who are telling us that they have not and will not be donating any land) are lying, then they will be exposed. The potential homebuyers in Spring Terrace, Gosling Pines, Rhodes Landing, Bella Serra and Northcrest Village deserve to know the truth, and not just the "after the fact" truth. Thanks, bloghouston, for being a voice for the people.

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#23 2005-01-27 13:37:20

mattbramanti
Member
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-04
Posts: 507
Website

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Anne wrote:

A MUD board member up here made an interesting comment:

"I agree with former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier's statement, 'What we need is more spokes coming out the city, not more wheels, or circles around the city,' added Warren.

"The circles for 249, Beltway 8 and the 610 Loop have been started, but none of them have been completed. Now they want to begin a fourth circle by building the proposed Grand Parkway," said Warren. "What the area needs is to widen Ella Boulevard, T.C. Jester, Kuykendahl and Gosling."

I'm not an expert, but that makes sense to me.

I went to high school on the northwest side (St. Pius X...go Panthers) and work in the same area. Widening Ella and T.C. Jester would definitely be a big step forward in alleviating traffic. One thing I worry expanding T.C. Jester, though: all those homes are already very flood-prone. Something would have to be done the resolve the water problem first.

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#24 2005-01-27 14:25:03

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

Not to be totally contrarian about things, but if you are really concerned about flooding those homes, the solution is don't widen a bunch of streets that will ultimately encourage further development upstream of the homes.  With our flat terrain around here, the biggest factor in runoff is the amount of water that is absorbed into the ground.  Covering an area with concrete, asphalt, and lawns sloped to encourage drainage will exacerbate any existing problems, regardless of how many retention basins we build.  The mitigation structures you build to offset the effect of the larger streets will be a drop in the bucket compared to the runoff created when thousands more upstream acres become subdivisions.

Obviously development needs to occur somewhere, but widening those streets as part of a "mobility" solution, without carefully examining and controlling the flood-related effects of any future development would be incredibly short-sighted.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#25 2005-01-28 13:12:55

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Trying to preserve that rural feeling in Spring

There is updated information on the Grand Parkway project in Spring, Texas that is now available for everyone. Please visit our website at;

http://mypeoplepc.com/members/chrisodon … ourspring/

If you happen to live within the targeted zone of attack by HCTRA, there are action plans listed there for you to take advantage of as soon as possible. Thanks!

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