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Bagby Reconstruction - Commuters vs. Residents, Cars vs. People

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This was mentioned in another thread but it definitely deserves it's own thread. The plans to reconstruct Bagby to help make Midtown a more pedestrian friendly area are being scrapped.

http://innerlooped.com/1840/very-bad-news-for-bagby/#comments

The Director of Public Works, Daniel Kreuger wants to make Bagby a three lane street to help make cars move faster. This will obviously mean there will be less room for expanded sidewalks and improved landscaping that were originally planned. Commuters interests' are once again being accomodated instead of the interests of residents, pedestrians, and small businesses. To me, it makes no sense since Bagby has always been a fast moving street in the first place. I guess they want cars to drive 45 mph instead of 35? Apparently, the fight is not yet over.

http://innerlooped.com/1851/bagby-street-hoopla/

If you feel as angry as I do, please email the mayor, Annise Parker and the director of public works and tell them how you feel about making Bagby a 3 lane road before it's too late.


  1. Public works director Kreuger:
    pwe.director@houstontx.gov

  2. Mayor Parker:
    Mayor@houstontx.gov

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Just heard about this from a friend who lives in the area (and is also a member of this forum).

While I don't live in the area, I consider this to be a bad change. The area's development has hinged on its pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. While it's reasonable to desire an ease of traffic flow, it's also the case that our officials should consider the effect on businesses - and the character of the area. The only good reason to consider this change is that it increases traffic flow between the 45-South off-ramp and the 59-South on-ramp - but that is an inefficient route anyway, given the direct 45/288/59 interchange that occurs not but one mile later. Plus, this change won't affect northbound traffic.

Yup, I think this is a bad idea.

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I can't get a legit response whether this is a rumor or not. Got a response from the mayor that said the project is not being delayed and they were just responding to minor comments from the city. She did not, however, specifically deny that one of the comment was to add a third line.

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I can't get a legit response whether this is a rumor or not. Got a response from the mayor that said the project is not being delayed and they were just responding to minor comments from the city. She did not, however, specifically deny that one of the comment was to add a third line.

Adding a third lane would be stretching the definition of "minor comments" beyond recognition, and almost certainly would require significant delays.

Edited by Houston19514

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It looks like the third lane could easily be achieved by just removing the on-street parking. So what's the biggest threat--using this stretch of Bagby as a way of cutting between southbound I-45 to getting on westbound 59 without that gnarly interchange to the east?

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The problem is that they will likely make it 3 lanes and have on street parking. This means less room for pedestrians. Bagby is already a fast moving street when there's no construction. Adding a 3rd lane is unnecessary. I've lived in Midtown for 5 years and have never once experienced traffic on Bagby. In fact, cars drive way too fast already. Adding a 3rd lane is pointless.

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The Midtown Houston facebook page just posted the following message:

"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."

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Nothing really says what the City of Houston "concerns" are exactly. Why don't they come out and say.

I've said for years that Midtown will never fully develop as a residential district until planners stop looking at the north-south streets in the area as basically on-ramps for 59. It was when streets in the area were widened in the 1960s-70s that the neighborhood started its decline. The best thing for development would be to lose a lane of traffic and slow the cars down.

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It was when streets in the area were widened in the 1960s-70s that the neighborhood started its decline.

I seriously doubt that the decline began in the 70s (it began long before then), and I VERY seriously doubt that wider streets were the cause of said decline. Neighborhoods all over inner Houston went into decline in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, largely due to neglect after large segments of the population moved to the suburbs during white flight. They were replaced by lower income families with less resources to maintain the older housing stock.

In fact, the Old Southwestern Bell Building was built in that location in an effort to spur revitalization of the area, which obviously means that the area was depressed at the time the decision was made to build. HCAD shows the building dates to...1966.

Historic Google Earth shows the wide streets as far back as 1953, predating even the Pierce Elevated, which, by the way, probably had more to do with Midtown's decline than wide streets.

I'll be happy to read any links you provide to counter this belief, however.

Edited by RedScare

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That may be true, but the wide streets are nonetheless counter-intuitive to creating a pedestrian-friendly environment. Many of the North-South streets in Midtown are wider than necessary considering the traffic flow. Having lived in Midtown for a number of years, I can tell you that streets like Bagby, Crawford, Caroline, and San Jacinto do not get a lot of traffic for their size.

I was under the impression that the original intention of the street widening was to encourage the expansion of downtown south of the Pierce elevated. Maybe the gradual densification of Midtown will eventually justify the extra-wide streets.

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Here is the City's response to my e-mail about this project:

=================

Good morning,

Thank you for your email regarding the Bagby Street reconstruction project. We appreciate the passion and interest you have for better roads, sidewalks and infrastructure for the Midtown neighborhood. As there have been many false rumors regarding this project, we would like to provide you with information concerning the Bagby Street reconstruction venture.

In the beginning of this year, the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) (http://www.houstonmidtown.com) began the Bagby Street Reconstruction project. The cost and oversight belongs to the Midtown TIRZ and not the City of Houston. The reconstruction will run from St. Joseph Street to Tuam, and will also include two blocks of Pierce between Baldwin to Brazos. Currently, the first two phases of the project, from St. Joseph to McGowen, are under construction.

The finished product will include brand new streets, upgrades to public utility services, including: water main upgrades, a new 60 inch storm sewer to mitigate neighborhood flooding, sanitary sewer upgrades; as well as new landscaping, sidewalk adjacent benches, larger, wider sidewalks, wheelchair ramps and other improvements. The primary objective of the project is to replace a crumbling, almost unusable thoroughfare through western Midtown with a rebuilt car and pedestrian friendly street.

For whatever reason, there are rumors that Public Works has stopped construction on this project. This is not the case. Some key highlights to remember include:

· There are no planned stoppages in construction work.

· There are no plans to change the design or capacity of the street.

· Bagby will remain a two-lane street.

· Improvements to Bagby focus on pedestrian enhancement and will bolster rather than discourage pedestrian activity in Midtown.

Thank you again for your email in this regard. The Bagby Street reconstruction should be completed by May, 2013. Our office remains committed to improving neighborhood infrastructure and quality of life. Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future regarding this, or any other concern.

Regards,

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That may be true, but the wide streets are nonetheless counter-intuitive to creating a pedestrian-friendly environment. Many of the North-South streets in Midtown are wider than necessary considering the traffic flow. Having lived in Midtown for a number of years, I can tell you that streets like Bagby, Crawford, Caroline, and San Jacinto do not get a lot of traffic for their size.

I was under the impression that the original intention of the street widening was to encourage the expansion of downtown south of the Pierce elevated. Maybe the gradual densification of Midtown will eventually justify the extra-wide streets.

I do not disagree with any of your post, and in fact, agree with it. I was merely responding to what appears to be a completely made up statement by a previous poster in order to link the wider streets to the decline of the Midtown neighborhood in the past. Frankly, they are completely unrelated.

Besides, it looks like this uproar was completely made up as well.

Edited by RedScare

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In my experience, Innerlooped is not a very reliable source. People should get a little more information before grabbing for their pitchforks.

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There was also a story on the news about it. It wasn't just inner looped. Plus, until now, all responses from public officials were vague.

Maybe the uproar did in fact help the cause because it appears that they really aren't expanding to 3 lanes.

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Hooray for a direct answer from the city!

Honestly, even if this was entirely made up, I think reminding the city that there *are* people who pay attention and care about this stuff is valuable.

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In my experience, Innerlooped is not a very reliable source. People should get a little more information before grabbing for their pitchforks.

Can you enlighten me on what I have posted in the past that was "unreliable"? I work hard to ensure that what I post is accurate and true. Trust me... I don't post for the piddly AdSense revenue. I post only when I have something to say, and I only post because I care deeply about our city. Mainly, I want to make sure public officials don't screw up the good things we have going for us.

This IS a threat to Bagby. People are right to have grabbed their pitchforks. I haven't posted any updates yet because while construction continues, there are still disagreements and questions behind closed doors. I'm waiting to see how things play out before I relax (probably won't be until the project is completed).

Even so, the city now knows there are a ton of people that care deeply about having a pedestrian-friendly Houston. My hope is that this event remains in the back of their minds each time they begin to make a decision that impacts our urban neighborhoods.

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Can you enlighten me on what I have posted in the past that was "unreliable"? I work hard to ensure that what I post is accurate and true. Trust me... I don't post for the piddly AdSense revenue. I post only when I have something to say, and I only post because I care deeply about our city. Mainly, I want to make sure public officials don't screw up the good things we have going for us.

This IS a threat to Bagby. People are right to have grabbed their pitchforks. I haven't posted any updates yet because while construction continues, there are still disagreements and questions behind closed doors. I'm waiting to see how things play out before I relax (probably won't be until the project is completed).

Even so, the city now knows there are a ton of people that care deeply about having a pedestrian-friendly Houston. My hope is that this event remains in the back of their minds each time they begin to make a decision that impacts our urban neighborhoods.

I don't recall any specific items. To be honest, I haven't recently frequented your site, because in the past I found it to be unreliable. Perhaps I am remembering incorrectly, but there must have been some reason I didn't frequently return to your site. I just browsed through it now and it looks quite good. I'll probably start visting more frequently.

Having said all of that, no matter how you spin it, your report on Bagby was pretty unreliable. Work was obviously not about to be halted and there does not appear to have been any plan to redesign it to install a third lane. I am not buying the suggestion that the petition and fairly mild uproar caused by your posting caused them to cancel a planned work stoppage and redesign THAT quickly.

A look at the city's Major Thoroughfares and Freeways Plan is quite informative.

Bagby (and Brazos) are designated as Collector streets. Bagby was previously designed as C-4-80, meaning a collector street with the ability to provide 4 lanes of traffic, in an 80 foot right-of-way. At the request of the engineering firm that designed the new Bagby project, I believe it was re-designated last year as C-3-80. Accoring to Midtown's engineers, the street project being done by Midtown is specifically designed "such that if future volumes warrant a third lane the parallel parking along the east side could be removed to create a third travel lane". With that information, one suspects the city may be requiring some minor changes to preserve the ability to convert the east lane of parking into a third travel lane if and when the traffic volumes warrant.

As has been noted in these threads and elsewhere, with the availability of multiple alternative (and faster-moving) routes from downtown to the Spur/Southwest Freeway, one imagines it will be a very long time before that third lane is warranted, if ever.

Vigilance is called for, as always, but not pitchforks. ;-)

Edited by Houston19514

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There was also a story on the news about it. It wasn't just inner looped. Plus, until now, all responses from public officials were vague.

Maybe the uproar did in fact help the cause because it appears that they really aren't expanding to 3 lanes.

The story on the news was taken directly from Innerlooped. It was just Innerlooped. The vague responses were a little frustrating and ridiculous. But, it is HIGHLY unlikely that this uproar caused the city to abandon its alleged plan to halt work and redesign the project to add a third lane THAT quickly. Cities just don't make moves that quickly and, further, they have contractors on the job who need notices to halt work and re-start work, etc.

If indeed work was to have halted within days of the Innerlooped report, the contractors would have been on notice. Seems like that should be something a reporter could track down pretty easily, no?

Edited by Houston19514

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The story on the news was taken directly from Innerlooped. It was just Innerlooped. The vague responses were a little frustrating and ridiculous. But, it is HIGHLY unlikely that this uproar caused the city to abandon its alleged plan to halt work and redesign the project to add a third lane THAT quickly. Cities just don't make moves that quickly and, further, they have contractors on the job who need notices to halt work and re-start work, etc.

If indeed work was to have halted within days of the Innerlooped report, the contractors would have been on notice. Seems like that should be something a reporter could track down pretty easily, no?

My original post was meant to change the minds at a certain department that were about to do something incredibly stupid. Yes, it was highly unlikely it would work (I had no idea it would even gain the traction it did). However, I was just able to get a hold of my source and things are looking good. There are still some adjustments being made... but it's now something that can be dealt with unlike where we were the other week. I will be posting an update later.

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From my contacts in City Hall, this was true. The head of Public Works has decided to change the (already approved) plan by fiat just because it was what he wanted to do. (Yes, a tautology, but you would understand if you know the guy)

All the hubbub brought this to the attention of the Mayor, who made him back down.

In other words, Innerlooped was absolutely right, and everyone who sent an e-mail, fax, or letter made a difference.

This would not have happened four years ago.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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Perhaps Houston19514 is a bit jealous that Brian may have achieved some minor fame. However, having had a City Hall victory snatched from my hands at the last minute, I applaud ANYONE who takes on government and wins, even if it is considered small potatoes by some. Kudos to you, Brian, for bringing this to the attention of those who are interested. Don't let the pettiness of government or other posters deter you, even if that petty poster may occasionally be me.

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Perhaps Houston19514 is a bit jealous that Brian may have achieved some minor fame. However, having had a City Hall victory snatched from my hands at the last minute, I applaud ANYONE who takes on government and wins, even if it is considered small potatoes by some. Kudos to you, Brian, for bringing this to the attention of those who are interested. Don't let the pettiness of government or other posters deter you, even if that petty poster may occasionally be me.

Thanks, I appreciate the comment... and no, I'm not deterred. I think the problem is that people talk about the government as some big and scary evil entity where nothing gets done. In reality, it's just a bunch of people like you and me who happen to be working for a huge organization. Most of them have good intentions, they just aren't aware of what everyone else is doing. Change happens when you can break through the monotony of their daily jobs and help them notice what's going on.

Edited by brian0123
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Things are progressing quite well, a good bit of paving has been finished south of Webster. I'd imagine the Webster intersection isn't too far from being torn up.

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I haven't been down it in a while, but from what I saw, the sidewalk is very well made for ped traffic.

I know not really on topic of midtown, but I noticed that in downtown on Dallas between Caroline and Austin they are doing some serious sidewalk expansion as well.

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