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Update on the bike trail bridge

We have an estimate for repairs.

Weather-permitting — and the sky this weekend likely will not look that permitting — runners and cyclists along a popular Heights trail will have a key connection back by September.

Houston Parks Board officials said repairs to the MKT Bridge along the Heights Hike and Bike Trail will start in the coming days, potentially Friday. The $193,000 job will take 60-to-90 days, officials said. In the meantime, runners and riders should continue to detour along the White Oak Bayou Greenway and Heights Boulevard.

The bridge closing came after an Aug. 19 fire broke out in brush along the north side of the bridge, supported by large wooden beams and latticework. The span dates back decades, part of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad line rebuilt a decade ago as the Heights Hike and Bike Trail.

The fire, which might have been set inadvertently, remains under investigation. A fireman and arson investigator reported minor injuries as a result of the blaze, which took about three hours to extinguish because it charred the thick wooden beams.

The effects, however, linger for trail users, who since have been unable to use the bridge — a key connection in the bayou trail system, just feet from the park board’s new signature greenway park.

See here for the background. The Friday in question was this past Friday, June 4, but I don’t know offhand if work has started – the rain probably put them off for now. As noted before, there is a detour that allows you to get around the disabled bridge, but it takes you a long way to do it. As it will have been a year since the fire by the time this is set to reopen, I’m sure everyone who uses this path will be very happy to see it be available again.

And more good news:

Some of the frustration, runners and cyclists said, is how close other usable trails are to the bridge, but remain inaccessible. The White Oak Trail ends at Stude Park within sight of the bridge, but does not connect to it, blocked by a flood control channel.

Unrelated to the bridge fire and repairs, that could soon change. Houston Public Works, after years of planning, is preparing to start construction on extending the trail. If work starts in August as expected, the $950,000 job to make the connection could be completed by the end of the year or early 2022, officials said.

I’ve looked at the end to this trail for years and wondered what it would take to make that obvious connection. I’m delighted to see that it is finally on the verge of happening.

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8 Comments

  1. David Fagan says:

    The $193,000 campfire. Thank you fire fighters for preventing it from being even more expensive, or even a total loss.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    Yes, thanks firefighters, I did sign your petition (actually both, the one three years ago, and the current one). HFD is a professional outfit that mounts an aggressive interior attack with smaller hand lines for most structure fires. HFD also works in a city with an absurd number of traffic smashes that require fire department responses, and a serious arson epidemic that continues to go unaddressed.

    It is a shame that fixing this bridge is going to take more than a year. Houston is home to a high number of out of shape people, so fixing a trail for walking, biking, jogging should be a bigger priority.

  3. Manny says:

    Jason, donate to help make it happen sooner.

    https://houstonparksboard.org/about/bayou-greenways-2020

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Maybe the money wasted on all night drive through voting could have been better spent fixing this bridge. Just a thought. Lord knows Houston’s black population could use the exercise.

  5. Ross says:

    Bill, focus:

    Voting – costs are the responsibility of Harris County

    Bridge – Costs are the responsibility of the City of Houston. Two different entities, two separate budgets.

  6. Lobo says:

    TEMP CROSSING

    Why can’t some boyscout troop be recruited to build a temporary bridge just over the cocrete-lined channel that the dissects the lower bank. The concrete banks are wide enough to be suitable for foot traffic and dirt bikes, and the slopes to get down to low banks are manageable, if memory serves right. Such a contraption won’t outlast a major rain/high water event, but would allow convenient crossing in the interims. Tether the main support beams and perhaps they won’t even float away. Then rebuild.

    Or perhaps build a cable-tethered floating bridge – pontoon-style. Watch it raise as the stream swells, then come back down.

    Are there any regulatory obstacles or concerns?

    PS: Missing swamplot.com – This would have been a good story, with lots of community input in the rough-and-tumble comment thread.

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    Manny, thanks, I gave a small donation, and, the good news is that you can click on the Memorial Hermann Challenge, and Memorial Hermann has a matching program and will match the donations from $1 to $15,000 this month.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    Houston is part of Harris County. Just like Harris County deputies can patrol inside the city limits, there should be no reason why the county can’t partially finance a worthy project inside the city limits.

    Wolf,

    A lower fixed bridge would stand a very reasonable chance of being washed out during the next big rain event. Even if it wasn’t destroyed, it would be an impediment to water flowing through the presumably flooded above bank bayou.