By Taelor Smith
Residents and visitors to Precinct 4 routinely cover the area’s 2,700 miles of roads each day, occasionally encountering potholes, downed traffic signs or other problems. The road to fix those problems, though, often begins when a resident submits a request to Precinct 4’s Community Assistance Department.
“The need [for upgraded roadways] comes out of the constituents finding the issues,” says Landon Reed, the assistant director of community outreach at Precinct 4. “When a request is made, it is always investigated.”
Though many issues are small and routine, like adding stop signs or filling potholes, some require more attention. Capital improvement projects are those that require a significant financial investment, such as extending, widening, or upgrading a major thoroughfare. These projects can create opportunities for partnerships between Precinct 4 and other entities.
“It is Commissioner (R. Jack) Cagle’s desire to leverage Precinct 4’s mobility funds by seeking partnerships with entities that would have a vested interest in a capital project being implemented,” says Pamela Rocchi, the director of Precinct 4’s Capital Improvement Projects division (CIP). “We have a longstanding policy of seeking partnerships with other jurisdictions and stakeholders as capital improvement projects are developed.”
Precinct 4 frequently partners with such agencies as the Texas Department of Transportation, Montgomery County, other Harris County precincts, the Harris County Flood Control District, municipalities, local utility districts, water authorities, school districts, homeowners associations, and others.
When attempting to partner on capital improvement projects, CIP first identifies potential stakeholders. The CIP agency coordinator then reaches out to determine those stakeholders’ interest, develops rapport, and ensures the participating entity is updated on a project’s progress. Once a capital project concludes, maintenance reverts to the jurisdiction to which the entity belongs. Precinct 4 has exercised these partnerships in a few recent projects.
The Louetta Road project now underway is a joint effort between Harris County precincts 3 and 4. This project will connect the precincts with a bridge over Little Cypress Creek between Stablewood Farms Drive and Telge Road, providing another route between Highway 290 and Interstate 45. . The cost of the $8.8 million project will be split between the precincts, and the project is scheduled to conclude by March 2022.
Precinct 4 also worked with the Champions Municipal Utility District to upgrade Champions Drive between FM 1960 and Cypress Creek to a two-lane concrete road with drainage improvements and new landscaping. Project development began in 2018, and construction ended in July, in time for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open Golf Tournament to be held at the Champions Golf Course in December. Harris County provided $10 million, and Champions MUD contributed $4.5 million.
“Projects with multi-jurisdiction boundaries are more challenging to pursue, since it takes a combination of need, community interest, and funding availability for the respective entities to move forward,” explains Rocchi.
But it is Precinct 4’s Community Assistance and Road & Bridge departments that handle roadway needs that can be fixed relatively quickly and easily.
A crosswalk at a roundabout intersection garnered many complaints, although it was technically “safe” under state regulations. However, when crews assessed the crosswalk, they discovered it was dangerous for students walking to and from a nearby school. Reed noticed an unfinished sidewalk near the area, realized The Woodlands Township covered costs for sidewalks and contacted officials there to create an alternative crosswalk. Precinct 4’s Road & Bridge Department added a culvert for a crossover to a nearby ditch and provided striping along the path, and Tomball ISD rerouted the student entrance to the school.
“Within six weeks, the three [entities] were able to partner together to provide a new crosswalk. We then put out a statement through the HOA advising parents and students to use the new, safer crosswalk,” says Reed.
Residents can continue to keep roads safe by reporting issues or suggestions. Requests that can be solved quickly, such as potholes, downed trees, and signal light outages are typically completed within 24 hours. Precinct 4 residents can submit a maintenance request at http://hcp4.net/assistance/.