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Midtown Streetscape Improvements


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On 3/10/2019 at 8:15 PM, BeerNut said:

Looking down Caroline from Elgin.  This is taking forever...

 

 

 

I think it's going to take more time, too.

 

City wanted to do a bike lane up Austin and down on Caroline, but due to the extended construction schedule on Caroline they are doing a two-way on Austin instead. 

 

Thought I heard a timeline of 2-3 more years for Caroline to be done. 

Edited by wilcal
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On 3/28/2019 at 10:32 AM, wilcal said:

 

I think it's going to take more time, too.

 

City wanted to do a bike lane up Austin and down on Caroline, but due to the extended construction schedule on Caroline they are doing a two-way on Austin instead. 

 

Thought I heard a timeline of 2-3 more years for Caroline to be done. 

It would be nice if there was some place where the final plans and timeline for the Caroline St project could be viewed.
Midtown Houston has taken down the early conceptual renderings of what the finished project might look like, and replaced them with nothing.
I've attempted to contact Midtown Houston several times, and was always transferred to someone's voice mail (and, unfortunately, was unavailable when the calls were returned).
Just give us something on your website, MH. Anything. Even a sketch on a cocktail napkin and a few words would be an improvement.
PS: Are their employees paid, and if so, why:?

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10 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

It would be nice if there was some place where the final plans and timeline for the Caroline St project could be viewed.
Midtown Houston has taken down the early conceptual renderings of what the finished project might look like, and replaced them with nothing.
I've attempted to contact Midtown Houston several times, and was always transferred to someone's voice mail (and, unfortunately, was unavailable when the calls were returned).
Just give us something on your website, MH. Anything. Even a sketch on a cocktail napkin and a few words would be an improvement.
PS: Are their employees paid, and if so, why:?

 

I believe Metro is handling this project, so maybe approach them? I'm not sure how much Midtown is a part of the project. 

 

My basis of thinking Metro is handling it is that is what I recall hearing during the Austin St bikeway meeting, but that's a minor detail I could have misheard. 

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  • 2 months later...
2 hours ago, Texasota said:

Well that's a crappy looking bike lane. It won't matter much with the Austin protected lane, but I really hope that's not what they're planning for Brazos.

 

I'm more disappointed in so many 4' and 5' sidewalk widths. They seem way more interested in landscaping than hardscape for people to actually be able to walk around. That has to stop if when this area gets denser.

 

I will say a great step in the right direction is the implementation of more corner extentions and tucking back the lanes where people park which helps with better walkability at intersections. We rely way to much on signage that indicates what is parking and what is not. That should be built into the road system like in areas of downtown.

 

Overall its an improvement, but its been odd that the best streetscape Midtown has which is Bagby Street and Gray Street hasn't been done everywhere else. They should be pushing that design aesthetic more.

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On 6/14/2019 at 12:43 PM, Texasota said:

Well that's a crappy looking bike lane. It won't matter much with the Austin protected lane, but I really hope that's not what they're planning for Brazos.

I think this is from the original design. The protected bike path on Austin in its current iteration will be two-way.

 

12 hours ago, mattyt36 said:

 

Thanks 👍

 

Can anyone explain why the State is involved in this project?

https://www.midtownhouston.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Midtown-Special-Report.pdf

Quote

The Caroline Street Reconstruction project is a partnership between the Authority and HCC. It is partially funded through a Texas Department of Transportation ("TxDOT") grant. It includes complete roadway reconstruction with new concrete pavement and public utility upgrades from Pierce Street to Holman Street. Additionally, the project includes sidewalk improvements with landscape and pedestrian enhancements as well as improvements to the City’s designated bicycle route. The Complete Streets Program seeks to accommodate all modes of transportation including automobiles, pedestrians and bicycles to create a seamless walkable community. The project aims to balance the needs of transportation, pedestrians, local businesses and onstreet parking.

 

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On 6/14/2019 at 3:28 PM, Luminare said:

 

I'm more disappointed in so many 4' and 5' sidewalk widths. They seem way more interested in landscaping than hardscape for people to actually be able to walk around. That has to stop if when this area gets denser.

 

I will say a great step in the right direction is the implementation of more corner extentions and tucking back the lanes where people park which helps with better walkability at intersections. We rely way to much on signage that indicates what is parking and what is not. That should be built into the road system like in areas of downtown.

 

Overall its an improvement, but its been odd that the best streetscape Midtown has which is Bagby Street and Gray Street hasn't been done everywhere else. They should be pushing that design aesthetic more.

 

I admit I have not studied the plans in great detail, but after a quick look, the only 4' wide sidewalks I see are on the pages showing existing conditions.

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15 minutes ago, phillip_white said:

I think this is from the original design. The protected bike path on Austin in its current iteration will be two-way.

 

https://www.midtownhouston.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Midtown-Special-Report.pdf

 

 

I was told by CoH planners that bike lane was set to be two-way on Austin specifically because the construction on Caroline would be taking so long. They would be interested in splitting in between the two roads in the future. Would be relatively easy to convert a two-way bike lane into a single-way with a strong buffer.

 

With that being said, a 5' bike lane sucks. No buffer (typically 3') is not great, but it looks like the restriction is mostly the southernmost part. 

 

Also dumb to do the bike lane between on-street parking and driving lanes :(

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1 hour ago, wilcal said:

 

I was told by CoH planners that bike lane was set to be two-way on Austin specifically because the construction on Caroline would be taking so long. They would be interested in splitting in between the two roads in the future. Would be relatively easy to convert a two-way bike lane into a single-way with a strong buffer.

 

With that being said, a 5' bike lane sucks. No buffer (typically 3') is not great, but it looks like the restriction is mostly the southernmost part. 

 

Also dumb to do the bike lane between on-street parking and driving lanes :(

Yeah, from what I've seen/heard the plan is create a two-way bike lane "alley" between the existing curb and a new parking strip. This is dangerous, as it will create an obstruction between bikers and cross traffic; drivers will look to ensure no cars are coming, then plow ahead without looking for traffic in the bike path. And once it's built, it's hard to modify because of the permanence of concrete. And all of this because some Midtown residents are afraid to lose the precious parking spots in front of their door... as though that is somehow guaranteed to them.

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37 minutes ago, phillip_white said:

Yeah, from what I've seen/heard the plan is create a two-way bike lane "alley" between the existing curb and a new parking strip. This is dangerous, as it will create an obstruction between bikers and cross traffic; drivers will look to ensure no cars are coming, then plow ahead without looking for traffic in the bike path. And once it's built, it's hard to modify because of the permanence of concrete. And all of this because some Midtown residents are afraid to lose the precious parking spots in front of their door... as though that is somehow guaranteed to them.

 

No, thats actually just about the safest possible set-up, as long as parking is kept far enough back from each intersection to maintain visibility. 

 

I've never understood the argument that parking-protected 2 way bike lanes are unsafe (nor am I aware of any studies that back that up.) After all, pedestrians also go both ways and drivers have to check for them. 

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2 hours ago, phillip_white said:

The Caroline Street Reconstruction project is a partnership between the Authority and HCC. It is partially funded through a Texas Department of Transportation ("TxDOT") grant. It includes complete roadway reconstruction with new concrete pavement and public utility upgrades from Pierce Street to Holman Street. Additionally, the project includes sidewalk improvements with landscape and pedestrian enhancements as well as improvements to the City’s designated bicycle route. The Complete Streets Program seeks to accommodate all modes of transportation including automobiles, pedestrians and bicycles to create a seamless walkable community. The project aims to balance the needs of transportation, pedestrians, local businesses and onstreet parking.

 

I was just thinking about this the other day. How is Bagby considered a complete street in midtown when it does not include a bike lane?

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17 minutes ago, Texasota said:

 

No, thats actually just about the safest possible set-up, as long as parking is kept far enough back from each intersection to maintain visibility. 

 

I've never understood the argument that parking-protected 2 way bike lanes are unsafe (nor am I aware of any studies that back that up.) After all, pedestrians also go both ways and drivers have to check for them. 

Let me re-phrase:

This is dangerous, as it will create an obstruction between bikers and cross traffic (concerns allayed if space is maintained for visibility); drivers will look to ensure no cars are coming [in the direction of the one-way street], then plow ahead without looking for traffic in the bike path [coming from both directions]. 

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On 6/14/2019 at 1:28 PM, Luminare said:

 

I'm more disappointed in so many 4' and 5' sidewalk widths. They seem way more interested in landscaping than hardscape for people to actually be able to walk around. That has to stop if when this area gets denser.

 

 

While I agree that wider sidewalks are better, it's possible that there is a reason for the focus on landscaping instead of walkability.  There are studies that show landscaped sidewalks actually slow down the average speed of traffic on a street ("street calming" they call it).  

 

If this project is headed up by a transportation agency instead of a community improvement group, then that could be the reason for the focus on landscaping instead of pedestrian-level amenities.

 

Or I could be smoking the crack waffles again.  That's also possible.

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1 hour ago, Triton said:

 

I was just thinking about this the other day. How is Bagby considered a complete street in midtown when it does not include a bike lane?

Or even painted crosswalks at the intersections without lights.

 

There is so much pedestrian activity here that there should be HAWK signals as well. 

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25 minutes ago, editor said:

 

While I agree that wider sidewalks are better, it's possible that there is a reason for the focus on landscaping instead of walkability.  There are studies that show landscaped sidewalks actually slow down the average speed of traffic on a street ("street calming" they call it).  

 

If this project is headed up by a transportation agency instead of a community improvement group, then that could be the reason for the focus on landscaping instead of pedestrian-level amenities.

 

Or I could be smoking the crack waffles again.  That's also possible.

 

Probably right. Actually if the landscape is more like the swales that are at Bagby St or like the garden areas at Midtown Park then that would be excellent. We need more stuff like that. Its both pleasing aesthetically and functionally. Win-Win in my book, yet Midtown has been slow to roll this out throughout the district.

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On 6/17/2019 at 2:50 PM, wilcal said:

Or even painted crosswalks at the intersections without lights.

 

There is so much pedestrian activity here that there should be HAWK signals as well. 

 

Nowhere else to really post this, but the city has added a four-way stop to Bagby @ Pierce street.

 

This is a big improvement as there were many pedestrians trying to cross who were not heeded the right of way and some cars traveling down Pierce St were having difficulties getting across. 

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I wonder if any thought was ever given to converting Caroline to a 2-way street. I see zero reason not to, and in fact narrowing it to 3 through lanes makes it pretty easy. You do have the additional 5' for the insulting "bike lane" to deal with now though. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
1 hour ago, dbigtex56 said:

"nearing completion" and "almost complete" can take a long, long time.

 

These meeting minutes are from May. Two months later, they have finished the sanitary sewer on McIlhenny and are currently working on Hadley. I'm not 100% sure of the status of the waterline, but I think the portion south of McGowen is complete.

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On 4/7/2020 at 8:40 AM, dbigtex56 said:

Caroline St has been reduced to two lanes from McGowen St to the Pierce Elevated (?), with concrete barriers in place.

 

Austin Street is currently being re-striped to add the bi-directional bikeway along the eastern curb, as well as parking on both sides of the now two lane roadway. 

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It looks like the contractors got a kick in the rear because the pace of street pouring has really increased. I would guess there's a month or two left for the street works, then the focus will shift to sidewalks and later landscaping.

I also noticed this while walking in the area:
2406 Caroline has been completely scraped clean. Has anyone heard of something being developed here? It's a weird spot for townhomes, but a low-rise condo tower might make sense. Paired with the lot next door, this would have amazing potential.

Google streetview of the site:https://www.google.com/maps/@29.7442048,-95.3712092,3a,84.2y,305.44h,92.35t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1scGs37zyWFtyTK0EkR4vExQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DcGs37zyWFtyTK0EkR4vExQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D20.732653%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i16384!8i8192

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  • 4 months later...
On 1/21/2021 at 10:50 AM, phillip_white said:

It looks like the contractors got a kick in the rear because the pace of street pouring has really increased.

Was nice while it lasted. Another kick would be welcome, as they seem to have stalled in the Webster/Hadley block for weeks now.

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1 hour ago, dbigtex56 said:

Was nice while it lasted. Another kick would be welcome, as they seem to have stalled in the Webster/Hadley block for weeks now.

I was actually just thinking about how all of the work seemed to slow down within a week of my prediction. 6 months later and I would still guess one to two months left on the street work! However, the final product is starting to show through and it's going to be quite the upgrade.

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  • 3 months later...

Safer Commuting and Stunning Surroundings Headed to Caroline Street in Midtown Houston

Quote

Current project construction updates include: 

  • Roadway paving activity and sidewalk installations between Hadley Street and Pierce Street
  • Waterline and drainage installation between Gray Street and Pierce Street
  • Rain garden excavations and grading for landscape installations between Elgin Street and Hadley Street.  
  • Traffic signal installations at McGowen Street and Gray Street intersections

Project completion is scheduled for this fall. However, dates are subject to change depending on factors such as weather and other unforeseen barriers to construction. We appreciate the community’s patience with the Caroline Street project. Although TxDOT manages the construction of this project, Midtown will continue working with TxDOT to advocate on behalf of the Midtown community to address the concerns of Midtown residents and property owners.

 

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According to a friend who owns a house on Caroline, the contractors encountered some unexpected placement of underground utilities where Caroline intersects side streets. (Which underground utilities? Beats me.)
This accounts for part of the delay. He's now being told that the contractor has had to reduce the pace of construction because they didn't anticipate the expense of having to make the corrections to utilities, and it's left them in financial straits. 
What kind of contracts were approved that allow delays after delays? It's been 3+ years since the project began, and there's still no end in sight.

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10 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

According to a friend who owns a house on Caroline, the contractors encountered some unexpected placement of underground utilities where Caroline intersects side streets. (Which underground utilities? Beats me.)
This accounts for part of the delay. He's now being told that the contractor has had to reduce the pace of construction because they didn't anticipate the expense of having to make the corrections to utilities, and it's left them in financial straits. 
What kind of contracts were approved that allow delays after delays? It's been 3+ years since the project began, and there's still no end in sight.

I'm not sure how they are still able to lean on that issue, as the whole situation was uncovered during the survey phase. MRA issued a change order a couple years ago (I want to say it was before construction kicked off) that increased the project scope to include the removal of the abandoned utilities.

Nut this whole project has been a joke (both in terms of the MRA and the contractor). I have seen many instances where they poured curbs or sidewalks one week, then their crews have torn it up within a couple weeks. And the architects didn't seem to plan for drainage as some of the curbs don't have sewer openings so they just pool water on the road.

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16 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

According to a friend who owns a house on Caroline, the contractors encountered some unexpected placement of underground utilities where Caroline intersects side streets. (Which underground utilities? Beats me.)
This accounts for part of the delay. He's now being told that the contractor has had to reduce the pace of construction because they didn't anticipate the expense of having to make the corrections to utilities, and it's left them in financial straits. 
What kind of contracts were approved that allow delays after delays? It's been 3+ years since the project began, and there's still no end in sight.

Probably natural gas lines. those things are all over Midtown, and no one is sure which ones are still connected to the active gas grid. When we lived in Midtown, probably 2000 or so, they had a backhoe come in to pull up the gas lines around the electrical substation to the North of Tuam. Backhoe hooked up to a line, started lifting, and not only did a lot more pipe come out of the ground than expected, the line broke, and started spewing gas. Backhoe driver and his buddies bailed, and drove off. I called HFD and Centerpoint, who finally came out and got things shut down.

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  • 2 months later...
On 5/22/2014 at 6:04 PM, phillip_white said:

Construction on the Caroline Street project is scheduled to start in December 2014.

Happy 7th Anniversary, Caroline Street Project!
So far as I know, most blocks still do not have contiguous sidewalks, the new streetlights aren't functional, the water gardens and landscaping aren't complete, but what the hell...trees have been planted.
Woo-hoo!

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On 12/19/2021 at 10:04 AM, dbigtex56 said:

Happy 7th Anniversary, Caroline Street Project!
So far as I know, most blocks still do not have contiguous sidewalks, the new streetlights aren't functional, the water gardens and landscaping aren't complete, but what the hell...trees have been planted.
Woo-hoo!

Imagine how beautiful the trees would be in they had been planted 7 years ago!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just drove down Caroline and they are planting trees, and greenery now. Looks like most of the heavy construction is done and they're starting to clean up the street and working on landscaping. The lighting looks really nice. Cant wait to see this finished and Im sure neither can the people who live on this street or have businesses here.

I don't know what the problem with construction was that delayed this for so long but its nice to see them getting to the end.

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