Heights resident Matthew Besemer walked west down the sidewalk that runs along the north side of East 7th Street, as he often does, around lunchtime Tuesday.
When he crossed Arlington Street he had to veer to his left and into the road as he continued to proceed west, because the sidewalk ends and does not pick up again for another block. Another man and his young daughter on a tricycle made the same maneuver a short time earlier, temporarily venturing into 7th Street before they could return to the sidewalk and steer clear of the vehicles that periodically pass by.
“It’s not the biggest deal to walk on the road, but obviously it is a small road, too,” Besemer said. “And there’s traffic at times, especially in the morning and at night, and on the weekends when they have the farmers market (at the Heights Mercantile). I think a sidewalk would help a lot, especially in the neighborhood, since there’s a lot of families.”
The missing link in the sidewalk will soon be filled in by Houston Public Works, with funding from the office of Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin. A new path will be paved from Arlington to Cortlandt Street, which is one block to the west and also where the MKT Trail passes through that part of the Heights.
According to Kamin’s office, the upcoming sidewalk work was requested by a resident and aims to provide further connectivity between residential streets and the well-worn trail for walking and cycling.
The project was set to begin in late July and be completed by mid-August, according to a Houston Public Works memo shared by the Houston Heights Association, although no construction work appeared to have been done as of Tuesday. The work will cost $22,500, according a spokesperson for Houston Public Works.
“I’m glad I could fix another gap in our sidewalk network, this time providing safe access to the MKT Trail – one of our district’s most popular trails,” said Kamin, who represents the area as part of District C. “I’m doing everything I can not only to advocate for better sidewalk policies citywide, but also to find solutions for missing sidewalks in our district.”
Kamin’s office funded two other previously missing sidewalk connections earlier this year, on the north side of West 11th Street, just west of its intersection with Nicholson Street and the same MKT Trail, and also on the east side Cottage Grove Park.
The upcoming sidewalk on East 7th Street is not welcome by all Heights residents in the immediate area. The path will run just to the south of residential properties situated on the north side of the street, between Arlington and Cortlandt, through what are existing grassy areas.
Gabriel Attal, who owns the house at the northwest corner of 7th and Arlington, said it was built within the last two years and the City of Houston gave him the option to have a sidewalk in that spot while the home was under construction. Attal said he was told a sidewalk wasn’t needed there, because the home is in a city-designated historic district and there is a partial sidewalk on the south side of 7th, and he wanted to maximize the green space on his property while limiting the concrete.
Attal’s wife, Ana Martinez, said she wants to know who requested the new sidewalk and whether it was one person or a group of people. She also questioned the need to increased trail access, since the MKT path can be accessed one block away to the east, west and south.
“We see it as unnecessary,” she said.
Eric Perich, who lives just south of the intersection of 7th and Arlington, also questioned the need for an additional piece of sidewalk. He said many pedestrians and cyclists he sees pass through the area do not always use the existing sidewalks.
”Where there’s no sidewalk, I have no problem with people walking in the street,” he said. “Where there is a sidewalk and people are walking in the street, that’s what’s frustrating.”
Houston Public Works spokesperson Erin Jones said the department will close one lane of traffic on 7th during construction, and she asked drivers to pay attention to construction signs and slow down while crews are working.
Besemer likely will need to find an alternate walking route during the time, but he’s looking forward to taking advantage of the finished product.
“It makes sense,” he said. “It is kind of odd where (the sidewalk) just ends and continues on the other side (of Cortlandt). I’m not opposed to it at all.”