Homeowners blame toll road for flooded homes

February 1, 2010 2:38:39 PM PST
Some homeowners in a southwest Harris County neighborhood say they get nervous every time it rains. They worry about flooding and blame the Westpark Tollway. The results of a new study may change their mind. With the Westpark Tollway right in their backyard, a group of southwest Harris County homeowners feel they are paying the price for progress after many of their homes flooded during a major rain event last year. But a report recently released shows they may be placing blame where it doesn't belong.

During 30 years in the same house, Rand Whittemore says until last April he never worried about flooding.

He recalled, "Six inches it came up into the garage."

Whittemore was one of the lucky ones. That day 13 homes in the Clayton subdivision in southwest Harris County took on water after eight inches of rain fell in 12 hours.

"It didn't flood when we had the railroad," Whittemore explained. "Now that we have the toll road, it is flooding."

He's talking about the Westpark Tollway. A wall separates the toll road from the neighborhood which sits to the north. While residents believe that's what caused the water to back up, the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) says not so fast.

Lawanda Howse with HCTRA said, "We know there's no additional outlets that were built in there and we've looked at the entire system and we know what the outlets are that drain into Brays Bayou."

Engineers who recently studied the toll road's drainage system found, "The Westpark Tollway storm sewer system was adequate to convey runoff."

The Harris County Flood Control District feels "by today's standards it's outdated."

The subdivision was built in the mid 70s and officials say the drainage system is incapable of handling an extreme rain event. Whittemore, who has been made aware of the report, isn't convinced.

He said, "It sounds like another stall and it always seems to happen in Houston."

The Harris County Toll Road Authority says it's committed to conducting a more extensive study of the entire neighborhood and its drainage system. Officials here hope to come up with some proposals that would give those homeowners some relief.