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Beyond the Bayous Project Manager
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Houston Parks and Recreation Department
2999 South Wayside Drive
Houston Parks Board
Beyond the Bayous Regional Connector Network of Greenways
Harris County Regional Connectors
This project primarily addresses regional connectivity of the active transportation system throughout Harris County. Using grants from the Houston Endowment, the Houston Parks Board (HPB), in coordination with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD), has conducted studies to expand the success of Bayou Greenways 2020 (BG2020) to further connect Houstonians to parks, schools, jobs and each other. Beyond the Bayous identifies a new Regional Connector Network of Greenways to link the BG2020 system. It also proposes expanding BG2020, which is currently confined within the Houston City limits, to continue along the entire length of the bayous. This broader system of greenways can serve as the framework for active transportation projects under H-GAC’s 2045 Regional Transportation Plan.
Houston’s regional development patterns, which rely heavily on highway travel, have created challenges for regional pedestrian and bicycle connectivity. Houston relies on an extensive network of freeways and tollways to connect suburbs to employment centers. However, the roads that facilitate car travel often divide communities and create barriers to alternative forms of transportation. In many locations, pedestrian and bike crossing is impossible or unsafe. Railroads, bayous, and other major thoroughfares also act as barriers across Houston.
The Bayou Greenways have begun to make safe connections past barriers that separate communities. The general east-west orientation of the Bayou Greenways casts a broad net across the city, but it does not reach all communities. In most cases, it does not create enough north-south connectivity.
Thus, Houston is fragmented into a patchwork of small neighborhoods that might or might not have access to Houston’s job and recreation resources. The Beyond the Bayous Regional Connector Network of Greenways are intended to bridge these barriers and connect the patchwork of Houston’s pedestrian network into a cohesive system.
In addressing pedestrian and bicycle regional connectivity, the project also aims to improve safety and accessibility. With the success of BG2020, more Houstonians than ever are walking and biking throughout the region. In much of Houston, the appropriate safe pedestrian infrastructure is not available. Dangerous pedestrian and vehicle conflicts result. Providing separated, ADA compliant greenways addresses these safety and accessibility concerns.
A greenway is a safe and comfortable bicycle and pedestrian connection located within a landscaped corridor that links to parks, neighborhood streets, schools, job centers, and transit centers. At a minimum, a greenway has a 10’ wide shared-use concrete trail with wayfinding. Depending on local conditions, they may have separate bicycle and pedestrian paths and lighting. Where greenways cross roadways, signed and signalized crossings are provided for safety. In some cases, grade separations are required to get pedestrians and bicyclists safely across bayous, highways, busy streets, or railroads. Using this set of standards, greenway facilities are intended to expand the Bayou Greenways 2020 network throughout Harris County.
Since bayous typically run west-east, the proposed project looks to make the largely north-south connections. Beyond the Bayous has identified eight new regional connector greenways to make these missing links: Headwaters, North Side, Westpark, West Side, Little White Oak Bayou, East Side, Port and Lake to Lake Regional Connectors. These greenways use vacant rights of way, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) land, power line corridors, minor bayous and other available lands, to create a Regional Connector Network of Greenways. The locations of these potential new greenways were identified based upon an analysis of open space needs in the surrounding communities and the opportunities for creating them within the existing city context.
The proposed Beyond the Bayous Regional Connector Network of Greenways would provide 388 miles of greenways to add to the 150 miles of Bayou Greenways.
Working to expand the benefits of Bayou Greenways 2020, the Beyond the Bayous Regional Connector Network of Greenways creates an equitable network where Houstonians can walk and bike safely, separated from traffic. These regional connections reach jobs, education and recreation. They make it easier for Houstonians to bike and walk in their daily lives, reducing stress and helping household budgets. The Bayou Greenways already facilitate daily commutes. Expanding and improving connectivity will add more neighborhoods to this network, thus creating both local and regional benefits. The regional connectors will facilitate both pedestrian access to existing parks as well as serving as a catalyst for more green space along linear corridors.
Where the greenways utilize Harris County Flood Control District lands, they provide the opportunity to use the land as both Greenway and for flood resilience. Additionally, the concrete trails can provide upgraded access for maintenance vehicles, and more space for habitat restoration.
They also create new regional greenway loops that further connect the system. CenterPoint utility corridors provide an essential category of undeveloped, privately-owned open space connecting the entire region, much like the bayou system. The regional connectors intend to activate these underused spaces to benefit the surrounding communities.
The proposed networks seek to achieve the Beyond the Bayous objectives of connectivity, equity and ecology and create a regional framework across Houston for pedestrian and bicycle mobility and access.
More than $100 million
View Uploaded File: Regional Connector Suppot Letters Binder.pdf
None of the Above
View Uploaded File: RCN Maps and Shapefiles.zip
View Uploaded File: RCN-project-budget-worksheet.xlsx
In 2011 Professor John Crompton completed the Bayou Greenways - Key to a Healthy Houston Benefit Analysis. The benefits analysis showed the extensive range of benefits of building a system of linear parks and trails along our bayou system. These include Houstonians’ physical and mental health and Houston’s environmental and economic health. The Beyond the Bayous Regional Connector Network of Greenways proposes expanding this system along the Bayous and throughout Harris County using utility, street and flood control rights-of-way. We can assume the benefits of the expanded system would be even greater than the original. The report is included to provide more detail for your reference.
View Uploaded File: Bayou Greenways Benefits Analysis -- John Crompton 8-26-2011.pdf
In 2011 the Benefits Analysis: Bayou Greenways – A Key to a Healthy Houston study was completed by Professor John Crompton from the University of A&M. They study estimated that the Bayou Greenway system would bring $117 million of monetary benefits per year. The study covered an expanded version of the Greenway system. The Houston Parks Board estimates that the completed Bayou Greenways 2020 system will provide $90 million per year of monetary benefits. This includes $30 million per year of economic health benefits, $10 million per year of environmental health benefits, and $50 million per year of physical and mental health benefits.
Economic health benefits include attracting a high quality work force, increased property values, and increased development. Evidence of increased development along the Bayou Greenways and trail systems is showing around Houston. The Elan Heights Apartment building is one example along White Oak Bayou Greenway. Other developers are upgrading existing retail complexes and reorienting existing them to face the bayous.
Environmental health benefits include flood resiliency, water quality and increased natural space. Physical and mental health benefits include reduced medical costs because of increased physical activity as well as recreation use value.
It is reasonable to assume that expanding the Bayou Greenways system will provide increased benefits in the same categories.
Using grants from the Houston Endowment, the Houston Parks Board (HPB), in coordination with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD), has conducted studies to expand the success of Bayou Greenways 2020 (BG2020) to further connect Houstonians to parks, schools, jobs and each other. Beyond the Bayous identifies a new Regional Connector Network of Greenways to link the BG2020 system. It also proposes expanding BG2020, which is currently confined within the Houston City limits, to continue the Greenways along the entire length of the bayous. The proposal adds over 300 miles of shared-use greenways to the 150 miles of Bayou Greenways 2020. These proposed greenways reach throughout Harris County to connect the region with active transportation options like never before.
Bayou Greenways are linear parks and trails along Houston’s major bayou network. Locating parks and open space next to the bayou allows this land to serve natural floodplain function. The Regional Connector Network proposes extending the Bayou Greenways from the City limits to the bayous throughout the county. It also proposes new greenways on minor bayous such as Little White Oak. Working with Harris County Flood Control District, the larger Little White Oak Bayou Regional Greenway project will include parks and detention to help reduce flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods.
During Hurricane Harvey, the Bayou Greenways 2020 trail system sustained little damage. After the removal of silt deposits, the trails were back in working order. The path, therefore, provided an alternative transportation option for those living near the Bayou who lost their cars to the floods, adding to the resilience of our transportation system.
In expanding network of shared-use primarily off-street trails for pedestrians and bicyclists, the Beyond the Bayous Regional Connector Network of Greenways greatly improves the active transportation level of service. The network connects major job centers, schools, homes and recreation so that Houstonians have more options for travel to where they work, learn, live and play. The network also links to transit centers across Harris County to expand these multimodal connections even further. The routes run within a ¼ mile of light rail stops and many bus stops giving multiple options for travel without reliance on a personal vehicle. Increasing alternative transportation options also reduces demand on roads and highways.
The intention is to have a maintenance structure similar to Bayou Greenways 2020. A 380 agreement with the City of Houston provides a percentage of the increased tax base for the BG2020 system maintenance fund. This allows a regular maintenance schedule that includes mowing, de-littering, and periodic monitoring. Graffiti abatement, repair work, and flood clean up are completed as necessary.
Houston-Galveston Area Council