Willow Fork Drainage District building pedestrian underpass beneath Westheimer

New walkway will make passage safer for students, pedestrians and cyclists

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 2/1/21

Willow Fork Drainage District President Wendy Duncan announced the district’s construction of a $381,000 pedestrian underpass beneath a busy section of Westheimer Parkway, just west of Cinco …

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Willow Fork Drainage District building pedestrian underpass beneath Westheimer

New walkway will make passage safer for students, pedestrians and cyclists

Posted

Willow Fork Drainage District President Wendy Duncan announced the district’s construction of a $381,000 pedestrian underpass beneath a busy section of Westheimer Parkway, just west of Cinco Ranch Boulevard. The new underpass is intended to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in an area near multiple KISD schools, Duncan said.

“There have been no accidents to date, but we do not want to wait for an accident to act,” Duncan said in a Jan. 29 interview. “We see it as potentially dangerous, and so it’s safer to go under the road.”

Duncan said traffic studies in the area conducted by the district’s engineering consultant, LJA Engineering, indicate that nearly 23,000 cars per day travel along the Westheimer where the bridge is located. There is currently a crosswalk at that location, but given the traffic, the district’s board of directors decided to install the underpass as part of their Parks and Trails Master Plan, Duncan said. She said the hope is to improve safety for pedestrian traffic to Cinco Ranch High School, Cinco Ranch Junior High School as well as the LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch commercial center.

“Pedestrians and cyclers often cross mid-block rather than take sidewalks to the nearest intersection, potentially endangering themselves if misjudging oncoming vehicle speed or the time it takes to safely cross,” Duncan said. “To address this concern, WFDD is funding this project as part of an overall trail safety plan that also includes 11 mid-block crossing and wayfinding signage across the district.”

More than 1,000 residents signed a petition in support of the underpass on the eastern side of the  Westheimer Parkway bridge, Duncan said. The underpass, which will not reduce the associated drainage infrastructure’s ability to move water during severe rain events, is being paid through voter-approved 2011 bond funds saved on other projects the district had underway that came in under budget, Duncan said.

Initially, she said, WFDD Assistant Vice President Gregg Nady, before being elected to the board, had made board members aware of grant funding that might be available to fund an underpass, given the board’s safety concerns for the area. However, after applying for the grants, funding was denied by the state. The board continued to look for a funding opportunity and when the savings for the other parks and trails projects came back, Duncan said they found the money for the underpass.

“We analyzed several projects … and we prioritized them, and this underpass was deemed a high priority by our board for the safety of our residents using the path or the trails,” Duncan said.

Funding for the Parks and Trails project comes from a 2011 bond referendum that was approved by voters to develop parks and trails in WFDD, Duncan said.

“That’s what we’ve built our three parks (with) – Central Green, Exploration Park, Willow Fork Park – the trails and the mid-block crossings is part of that (Parks and Trails Plan),” Duncan said.

According to the WFDD website, the WFDD Parks Master Plan includes park enhancements at 10 schools in the district as well as an additional 15 miles of trails. This will provide the district with a total of 50 miles of trails, 45 miles of which is off-street. It was initiated in 2011. In 2020, trails, wayfinding landmarks, at least one street crossing, quarter-mile markers, and alligator warning signage was added to the trails system, the site says. Pedestrian warnings were also added.

Willow Fork Drainage District, Wendy Duncan, WFDD, parks, trails

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