Linking two of the most popular hike-and-bike trails in the Heights is one step closer to fruition.
The Houston City Council last week voted to award a construction contract for the MKT Spur Trail Connector, which will close an 850-foot gap between the MKT and White Oak Bayou Greenway trails with a 10-foot wide reinforced concrete path.
Teamwork Construction Services has been enlisted to complete the work, which is estimated to cost $1.18 million and take 157 days, according to the council agenda item.
Council member Abbie Kamin, who represents the area as part of District C, said construction is expected to start this fall. Kamin also said a public engagement meeting will be held to discuss specifics of the project and the impact of construction, although a date for the meeting has yet to be determined.
"Our community has an abundance of cyclists, runners and walkers that are eager for the city to improve their accessibility," Houston Heights Association executive director Emily Guyre said in a statement released by Kamin's office. "We have a large number of neighbors who utilize the current trail system, and we know the volume will increase once this crucial foot trail connector is installed. The HHA is eager for the citizens of the Houston Heights to have a safe, accessible route to enjoy the outdoors and explore our beautiful city.”
As first reported by The Leader in March, the trail connector will cover existing green space along the north side of White Oak Bayou.
From downtown, the White Oak Bayou Greenway trail meanders northwest along Interstate 45 and I-10 before proceeding west through Stude Park. The trail ends underneath the bridge on Studemont Street, but the short connector will extend it to the west until it meets the MKT Trail, which runs northwest to southeast in that part of the Heights.
"Connecting the MKT Trail with White Oak Bayou Greenway addresses a critical gap in the off-street system," Houston Public Works director Carol Haddock said. "This connection is progress toward creating a safer and more equitable transportation network for all users."
The connector will branch off the MKT Trail just northwest of the pedestrian bridge across the bayou that has been closed since August 2020 because of a fire. Instead of crossing that bridge to get south of I-10 into the Sawyer Yards area, or vice versa, cyclists and pedestrians must take detours that significantly lengthen their route or force them off the trail and onto vehicular roadways.
In that sense, the trail connector will provide a shortcut, even after the pedestrian bridge is repaired and reopened. The Houston Parks Board announced in early June that repairs would soon begin on the pedestrian bridge and could be complete by Labor Day, although that date has passed and the bridge remains closed.
Beth White, the president and CEO of the parks board, said in March that the area will be an "incredible nexus" once both Heights projects are complete.
"In order to make Houston a truly bike-friendly city, connectivity is key," BikeHouston executive director Joe Cutrufo said. "By filling a gap in the city's bike network, this trail connector will make getting around by bike a safer and more attractive option for more Houstonians.”