A major kerfuffle is underway in Midtown, where a model Complete Street project is under construction, apparently in a way that the Director of Public Works doesn’t like.
Participants in the new struggle say PW director Dan Krueger uses Bagby to go home and is troubled by a variety of characteristics that tend to slow cars down to enhance pedestrian safety in the emerging urban neighborhood.
The current design has been through complete Planning and Public Works review and had, after 7 or 8 months, received a building permit.
In a note to a Midtown resident, Krueger said
The Public Works and Engineering Dept has recently addressed project issues to the entity responsible for the project, the Midtown Redevelopment Authority in conjunction with TIRZ 2, regarding the conformance of the already constructed and proposed improvements with the City’s Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan. These issues can be readily addressed by the project’s sponsor with minor revisions to the project.
Sources in Midtown say Krueger’s “minor revisions” will cost at least $700,000 for redesign and delayed construction.
A blog post at Innerlooped says
Apparently, the project (already 100 days into construction) with city-approved plans that have been vetted by members of the community, is coming to a halt in a couple days. Yes, construction (and all work on Bagby) is about to stop (and remain in its current state). Why? Because the city’s Public Works Department wants three lanes of traffic on Bagby.
Midtown residents and others online are up in arms and some are beginning to call for Krueger to be fired. Neighborhood groups, management districts, and others with walkable urban projects have for years complained about directives from PW that are widely viewed as unsafe for pedestrians, particularly the new minimum lane width of 12 feet. Such wide lanes add no capacity, can reduce throughput, and introduce more fatalities in car/pedestrian crashes.
In response to the immediate citizen backlash, Houston Midtown offered some explanation on their Facebook page:
Contrary to information circulating in the neighborhood, the Bagby project has not been halted. Permits remain in place, the contractor is on site and construction is continuing.
The City Public Works and Engineering Department (PWE) has raised some concerns that we are working with the City to quickly address without alteration of work already completed and with minimal impact to project costs and design.
Midtown and the City of Houston remain committed to the pedestrian-friendly, sustainable design elements of the currently approved design of Bagby Street. The goal is resolution of the concerns that have been raised while still maintaining the Midtown community’s vision of a sustainable GreenRoads project which provides a balance of vehicular mobility, pedestrian and biking mobility, and roadside parking.
We will remain in communication with all stakeholders throughout the project. If you have any questions, please contact Matt Thibodeaux at (713) 526-7577.
City Councilmember Ed Gonzalez has taken leadership toward adopting Complete Streets policies in the City and has introduced a motion to amend the new budget to include them. In a press release, Gonzalez said
Complete Streets for Houston – the city should commit to adopting a ‘Complete Streets’ policy. A complete street is one that is welcoming to multiple modes of transportation for all users; they are good for our communities and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
Andrew Burleson offers more commentary on the subject here.