January 20, 2008
Hike and bike, train and detain

Everybody wants a piece of the action.

For a skinny and unglamorous tract of land sandwiched between railroad tracks, an abandoned freight rail right of way in northwest Houston has attracted a lot of interest.

The city wants to extend a planned hike and bike trail along an old railbed from Shepherd Drive to Hempstead Highway.

The Texas Department of Transportation is planning a stormwater detention pond through much of it.

And the Metropolitan Transit Authority has looked into using the space for commuter rail to the northwest suburbs.

TxDOT's proposed V-shaped channel would run more than a mile between White Oak Bayou and a Union Pacific overpass on Hempstead Highway.

It also would use up 60 feet of the city's 100-foot right of way for the trail, and that has residents worried.

Two civic club officers said residents initially were told there would be a runoff pond 1,000 feet long. It was not until a Jan. 9 public meeting that they learned it would extend over a mile.

Tom Dornbusch, president of Woodcrest Neighborhood Civic Association, said the trail would be squeezed onto a 30-foot-wide maintenance berm between the water and railroad tracks. Linda Mercer of Cottage Grove Civic Club said her neighborhood to the south could be cut off from the trail.

Bayou Preservation Association president Kevin Shanley said the pond, if built, should be part of a linear park for bikers, walkers and wildlife, and TxDOT should remove oil or road debris before the runoff reaches the bayou.

In light of such concerns, the Houston-Galveston Area Council has extended a public comment period to 5 p.m. Thursday. H-GAC's Transportation Policy Council is scheduled to vote on the pond and two associated street projects Friday.

I'm not really sure what to make of this. If anyone who's been involved with this can leave a comment with some more information, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 20, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles