The overwhelming task of getting to Memorial Park from Uptown by bike or on foot is poised to vastly improve, provided a $22 million project for a bridge across Buffalo Bayou and underpass of Loop 610 come to pass.
“The West Loop has always been this wall that makes getting to memorial park harder than it ought to be,” said John Breeding, president of Uptown Houston.
Uptown, acting as the area’s county improvement district, was awarded nearly $18.5 million last week for the project aimed at better non-motorized access to Memorial Park. As the park has added amenities and seen reinvestment in trails, running facilities and its eastern portion, use has grown and with it, the demand for safer and easier access to it without a car or truck. Hemmed in by Loop 610 to the west and Interstate 10 to the north, getting to Memorial Park can take some maneuvering, including where it isn’t bounded by a freeway.
“It can be a puzzle, for sure,” bicyclist Mike Autry said. “If you are like me and you cannot really come with traffic, you can’t do it safely on the big streets.”
There is no greater barrier than Loop 610, which from the west is only crossed into the park by Memorial Drive and Woodway. Neither, especially at the frontage roads, offer much space for runners and bike riders, nor do speeds along the streets and the inclines bode well for pedestrians and cyclists.
Though there is a path along the southbound frontage road to Loop 610, Breeding said the crossing can be complex. The proposed project, which is about a year away from final design, creates a new route from Post Oak Boulevard – where the wide sidewalks can accommodate bicycles and pedestrians – north to Buffalo Bayou.
Breeding said from there the plans include a new bridge across the bayou, west of the frontage road, which will connect to a new trail on the north banks that will follow the water beneath the frontage roads and freeway, then ascend back up to street level on the east of Loop 610 and connect along the side of the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center to the existing trail along Woodway.
Getting up and down, through and around the area requires some complicated design, but Breeding – who is retiring – said his hope would be to have the project fully designed within a year.
“My objective is to bid this project for construction in December 2024,” he said.
If that happens, and the work takes the expected 12 months, people could be running or pedaling into the park by the end of 2025.
This just makes sense. Memorial Park is one of the city’s great amenities. It should be as easy as possible for as many people as possible to get there. If some of the people who want to go there can do so without having to drive, then they won’t be competing for parking spaces with everyone else. It’s a win-win. Like the project to connect Buffalo Bayou Park with Memorial Park, this will make Houston a better place.