Connecting Houston's Bayous and Parks
Here’s a quick reconnaissance report on the possibility of building a trail along White Oak Bayou the Heights Bike Trail to Shepherd Street.
In short, this section of trail seems very buildable at a relatively manageable cost. This trail would make for a wonderful loop with the now-completed Heights Bike Trail for runners, cyclist and walkers. With the construction of I-10 service roads over the Bayou at two points in this several mile section, some opportunities may still be available to piggy-back on that construction. The new structures will complicate a trail, but not make it impossible.
The south side of the Bayou is definitely the best route due to ease of access off the HBT, fewer bridges over drainage ditches (just one), easier passage along tight portions near I-10, and the ease with which one could go further west from Shepherd to meet up with a future expansion of White Oak trail.
Here are my observations from east to west beginning at the point where the Houston Bike Trail crosses White Oak Bayou just west of Studemont Street (sorry I only have photos for part of it, as for some reason only part of my photos got saved).
1. The best conditions at the Bayou/HBT intersection would appear to favor a trail on the lower bench on the south side of the Bayou. Entering the Bayou on the north side would appear to be complicated because immediately to the west there is a large drainage outfall ditch feeding in to the bayou, which would presumably require an expensive bridge (all readily visible from Google Earth).
2. Entering the Bayou on the south side, however, seems very straightforward. It appears that when the HBT was built, a gentle sloped ramp was built to access the bayou.
3. Going west, the “bench” is quite broad and easy to ride on. The top of the levee also seems very buildable.
4. A few shallow feeder ditches traverse the bench, but nothing that would require a bridge or heavy structure.
5. After about ¼ mile, one goes under I-10. This gets somewhat tricky. The bridge is at an elevation such that a trail would only fit on the “bench”, not the top of the levee. There is a lot of construction going on in this area with the 1-10 service roads being built above. TexDot is making a bit of a mess and would appear to be losing a decent amount of silt into the Bayou when it rains hard. Fortunately the “bench” is flat under the bridges so getting through does not appear too challenging.
6. The north side of the Bayou here looks very difficult here b/c the Bayou is cheek to jowl with I-10 (very visible on Google Earth).
8. The next slight obstacle is Heights Boulevard. Here the bench is flat under the bridges. The top of the levee is just fine as well in case one wished to provide access to the Heights Boulevard bike lane (one of the better, more respected and better utilized bike lanes in Houston).
9. There is a nice dirt path between Heights Boulevard and Yale, suggesting pedestrians already use this route. The bench in this area is fine as well.
10. West of Yale is an old railroad bridge. The central span of the bridge looks fine but vandals have burned the southern span (which in any event blocks the bench a bit). From afar, the bridge looks salvageable. To the south, the RR easement might provide access to planned commercial developments. We didn’t follow to the north.
11. Further west of Yale things get complicated again as the Bayou goes back under I-10. The new feeder road construction is in full tilt (as it will be for another couple of years – think already mobilized contractor!).
12. The challenge again is because I-10 crosses the Bayou “at grade” any trail would have to follow the bench. This looks mostly doable but the concrete apron on the bench gets a bit narrow in parts.
13. From this I-10 crossing west to Shepherd conditions are fantastic. There is just one bridge that would need to get built to cross a drainage ditch and perhaps that could somehow be avoided by looping to the south temporarily (see below).
14. Crossing under Shepherd on the Bench looks very feasible, as does the crossing under Durham.