September 16, 2007
Report from the Upper Kirby meeting

The Chron reports from the Upper Kirby public meeting on the storm sewer project north of US59 and its ancillary effects.

Nearly 300 people have signed an online petition against the project at the Web site of Trees for Houston. On Saturday, dozens of trees planted by the organization were adorned with signs to "save the trees" as well as bright green ribbons tied in bows.

"In less than two days, more than 270 people signed our petition," said Kathy Lord, executive director of Trees for Houston. "Our board of directors has really been working hard on this."

At the public meeting of the Upper Kirby District, many people expressed concerns that the massive project would destroy even more mature trees than officials have stated. The plan calls for new trees to be planted along the road.

Others said that traffic, already too fast along Kirby, would become more dangerous with wider lanes. And many expressed opposition to narrower sidewalks along the street, saying Kirby should be more "pedestrian-friendly."


Although construction is scheduled to begin in January, [Council Member Anne] Clutterbuck said design modifications to the streetscape could be made later without affecting the drainage improvements.

No one opposed construction of a 72-inch storm sewer under Kirby to improve area drainage.

The concerns centered on plans to add a 14-foot median and widen the three lanes of Kirby, now about 9 1/2 feet wide, to 11 feet to comply with city of Houston requirements.

The result -- narrower sidewalks and fewer mature trees on both sides of the street -- met strong opposition.

Mack Fowler, president of the board of Trees for Houston, maintained that the drainage project could be accomplished without widening Kirby.

Ann Lents said she was "thrilled to death" about both the drainage project and accompanying plans to bury overheard utility lines. But an esplanade in the middle of Kirby is not needed, she maintained. "People won't really walk on an esplanade. I want a way to walk," she said.

I'm glad to see people express such an interest in pedestrian issues for that area. Remember, there are a couple of high-rise residential buildings going up on Kirby near Westheimer right now. Either we make it convenient and attractive for these folks to leave their cars at home and walk to nearby businesses and restaurants, or we make the traffic on Kirby worse. Seems an easy choice to me. Let's hope that the feedback given gets acted on.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 16, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles