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A bikeable Houston? Feds kick in $15 million to connect key parts of the city with bike trails

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Heights Bike Trail_bicycle_McKee and Runnels
The Heights Bike Trail, which ended just feet before the curb along McKee Street, is a perfect candidate for further connectivity.  Photo by Whitney Radley
Heights Bike Trail_bicycle_McKee and Runnels
From left, Roksan Okan-Vick, Mayor Annise Parker, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Administrator Victor Mendez, Rep. Gene Green and Houston Parks and Recreation Department director Joe Turner gathered for the formal grant announcement.  Photo by Whitney Radley
Heights Bike Trail_bicycle_McKee and Runnels
Heights Bike Trail_bicycle_McKee and Runnels

Have you been cursing the lack of connectivity of Houston's bike trails to bus stops, rail lines and even other bike trails? Your problems may soon be resolved.

On Friday, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Mayor Annise Parker, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Representative Gene Green and parks representatives to formally announce the City of Houston as a recipient of a $15 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"This is . . . the type of project within the type of program that we are very happy to support," said Mendez, who commended the project's aim to create jobs, to expand transit options, to promote environmental awareness and healthy lifestyles. 

Mendez acknowledged Houston's Regional Multimodal Connections project as one of 47 projects selected to receive funding from the 2012 TIGER program, out of 703 total applicants.

 With 7.5 miles of off-street shared-use paths, 2.8 miles of sidewalks and 7.9 miles of on-street bikeways, the proposal won't solve all of Houston's connectivity woes. 

With 7.5 miles of off-street shared-use paths, 2.8 miles of sidewalks and 7.9 miles of on-street bikeways, the proposal won't solve all of Houston's connectivity woes, but will make six much-needed trail connections between Northside Village, Fifth Ward and Third Ward, to downtown, Midtown and the Medical Center.

One apparent gap was just behind the supporters and media in attendance at the press conference, where the beautifully-paved, two-way Heights Bike Trail ends — abruptly — just a couple of feet from the curb at McKee Street and Runnels Street. Parker lamented that there are many more like it, all across the city. 

"We're making critical connections, we're connecting to. . . our transit system, particularly the fast-growing light rail, we're going into neighborhoods, we're making it easy for them to access," said Roksan Okan-Vick, executive director of the Houston Parks Board, one of 11 community partners participating in the grant.

The total project cost is estimated to be nearly $30 million, and the remaining portion will be met by local government (22 percent) and private funds (20 percent). Work will begin, as Parker joked, "as soon as the check clears."

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