There is a MISCONCEPTION that the planned Memorial Drive Reconstruction Project (from Beltway 8 east to Tallowood Road) will provide much needed relief to our area’s flooding.
A group of concerned homeowners from the neighborhoods of Frostwood, Woodland Hollow (Hollow Drive/Broken Bough) and Legend Lane met January 24th with the two state engineers overseeing the Houston District project who confirmed that ONLY 11.5 ACRE FEET OF STORM WATER DETENTION WILL ACTUALLY BE GAINED in this endeavor in which the construction alone will cost an “estimated” $22.2 million in public funds.
To put this into perspective, engineer Ed Browne, chair of the nonprofit organization Residents Against Flooding, explains, “Under current rules 11.5 acre-feet would mitigate runoff from less than 23 acres.” Considering that over 800 homes flooded in this immediate area, such a small amount of detention is, forgive the pun, a mere drop in the bucket.
Also, the project will provide NO added protection from major storms (such as Memorial Day, Tax Day, Halloween – much less hurricanes). In the words of TxDOT’s Pat Henry, Director of Project Development, this is a “small” project to make “aesthetic improvements” to the roadway. TxDOT drainage expert Elie Alkhoury, Director of Hydraulics, Survey and Mapping, made clear that the flooding issues in our area are “regional” and cannot be addressed within the scope of this road reconstruction project.
Let that sink in.
$22.2 million of public funds PLUS millions more for 4 ½ years of studies and preliminary engineering. AND NO MAJOR FLOOD PREVENTION TO SHOW FOR IT.
While two massive 10’ by 10’ culverts will be installed, large enough to drive through, the water will be moved faster to the very same destinations which cannot handle it now and even with “restrictors” in some pipes, the waterways will again back up and overflow. It won’t take a hurricane for this to happen. It didn’t before. Our problem is man-made.
All area homeowners should have received a letter of invitation to a Public Meeting February 7th at Frostwood Elementary regarding this road reconstruction (meeting details below). Those who care about life-and-death flooding in their backyards should put this on their calendars in red ink. It’s not that so much can come from the meeting (the representatives behind the reconstruction project will be there defending what they want – and are being paid – to do) but the number of homeowners attending will make an impression on the state officials. Whole families should pack the place.
The state, through TxDOT, is required to oversee this project because federal grant money is involved. They must make sure it is spent according to federal guidelines. TxDOT did not design the project, however. The board of directors of the Memorial City TIRZ 17 (a City of Houston Tax Increment Redevelopment Zone) hired engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) to design this reconstruction.
In what appears to be a direct conflict of interest, the same engineering firm, LAN, has been hired by Harris County Flood Control to study our severely overwhelmed tributary (officially known as Ditch W153-00-00). What most times looks like an innocent little creek, this tributary runs under Tallowood Road and along Hollow Drive until it flows under both Memorial Drive and Somerset Townhomes and finally empties storm water into Buffalo Bayou. It has caused massive erosion at the outfall (requiring Somerset homeowners to fork over more than $300,000 for repairs) as well as collapsed pipes and a reoccuring sink hole at the Memorial Drive bridge over W153. MEMORIAL DRIVE’S RECONSTRUCTION WILL NOT ADDRESS EROSION.
Before the development of CityCentre, Memorial Hermann Hospital, etc., the tributary could safely transport storm water to the bayou, but now as more and more water runs off from new concrete and buildings, our living rooms have become the holding basins for its overflow instead.
The Memorial Drive Reconstruction Project will do very little to aid this dire flooding situation and we are investigating whether it will be put on hold until the results of the Harris County Flood Control’s study of W153 are known. LAN is being paid nearly a million dollars in public funds to conduct the study of this tributary and another one nearby, W151-00-00. The contract was only finalized by Harris County Commissioners in November.
Homeowners should also recall that the new $1.5 billion Harris County Flood Bond earmarked $10 million to address the issues of our tributary W153. UNTIL THAT PLAN IS KNOWN AND THOSE MODIFICATIONS MADE, IT DEFIES LOGIC THAT A ROADWAY PROJECT WHICH WILL EMPTY VOLUMES OF WATER INTO W153 WOULD PROCEED AHEAD OF IT.
Solving Memorial’s flooding is a massive dilemma and granted no one project will do it. Buffalo Bayou cannot handle any more water, nor can W153, yet new development, concrete, sidewalks, roads continue to be built without being required to detain 100% of the storm water runoff. Mayor Turner has refused to require “no adverse impact” by developer’s projects.
While the Memorial City TIRZ 17 has a $2 billion valuation, those (our) public funds are mostly spent on developer’s pet projects, landscaping and lighting, roads and entrances to their developments, and not towards improving drainage, detention, or replacing antiquated infrastructure. Yes, new culverts will be installed in the reconstruction of Memorial Drive, but many very old pipes will remain in place. If the new roadway is expected to have a life span of 50 years, that means some of the pipes remaining in service will then be over a hundred years old.
The reconstruction of Memorial Drive will create a lovely, smooth road, new sidewalks and medians. Developments such as Memorial Green, whose chairman sits on the TIRZ 17 board of directors, will greatly benefit from a pretty and improved road in front of their property. (Memorial Green’s storm water empties into W153.)
Yet there is only so much money, as Mayor Turner reminds us. It should be used to save and protect people first and make aesthetic improvements later. And, of course, the City should wait until expensive studies are completed and their resulting recommendations implemented before proceeding with the road reconstruction which will impact that very property.
Those of us who have flooded unnecessarily, and some who have even demolished and rebuilt to have their new homes flood as well, have a different perspective than those with the municipal wallet in their pocket. We feel PUBLIC FUNDS SHOULD BE USED TO PREVENT FLOODING BEFORE ANY OTHER NON-LIFE-AND-DEATH PROJECTS ARE UNDERTAKEN.
Perhaps friends and relatives of the people who drowned in their homes near Memorial Drive feel the same way.
ABOUT THE PUBLIC MEETING:
February 7, 2019
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm (Open House format)
Frostwood Elementary School, 12214 Memorial Drive
There will be NO formal presentation, NO public Q & A
Written comments may be submitted at the meeting or afterward if received/postmarked no later than February 22 via:
- Electronically submitted to:
- or through the project’s website at:
- Postal mailed to:
TxDOT Houston District Office
Director of Project Development
P.O. Box 1386
Houston, TX 77251
- In person:
TxDOT District Office
7600 Washington Avenue
Houston, TX 77007
- Please also send a copy of your comments to inform our District G City Council Member, Greg Travis
City of Houston
Houston, TX 77002