Walk study lays out path for Montrose to become walking neighborhood

HOUSTON, Texas -- In Montrose, despite being considered one of the most walkable areas in the city, almost 30% of the sidewalks are in poor condition, rendering 6 out of every 10 blocks potentially impassable to someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.

That is among the findings of a nine-month, first-of-its-kind study backed by the Montrose Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zone, which accrues a portion of area property taxes to fund infrastructure improvements.

"We say it is walkable, but it's not," said Randy Mitchmore, the chair of the TIRZ. "But we want it to be."

The plan outlines a road map to make Montrose a "20-minute neighborhood," where a high quality of life is possible for residents without ever having to hop into a car, said Geoff Carleton, senior principal for Traffic Engineers Inc., which led the study with Gauge Engineering.

"We walked and assessed every linear foot of sidewalk, every curb ramp, every transit stop," Carleton said. "We went into this to do a sidewalk assessment that could become the gold standard of what every neighborhood should aspire to."

From that assessment, the study built a network model tying in major thoroughfares as well as internal streets and sidewalks. The study also layered safety, accessibility and future project considerations, such as the METRONext plan, which calls for improvements to bus corridors along Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road, as well as a bus rapid transit line down Richmond Avenue.

"People are able to point out a gap, like a broken sidewalk, but we were able to think about this as a system," Carleton said. "This is all around prioritizing and laying out a path."

The study identifies over $40 million in potential projects, most of which will involve partnerships between the TIRZ, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, the city of Houston and Harris County. The study also contemplates other programs to encourage homeowners and developers to make sidewalk improvements with the possibility of rebates.

The data-driven nature of the study will allow the TIRZ to make strategic decisions about how to move forward while also tapping into other funding sources, such as transit dollars to improve access to METRO bus stops and grants to improve pedestrian safety around schools.

"This will help us go after grants. This is the type of approach they like to see," Gauge Engineering principal Muhammad Ali said. "And because the TIRZ made the case that we need to look at the whole area, including the enclave neighborhoods, not just the TIRZ boundary, we have something that will have a substantially greater benefit."

The TIRZ will begin developing a capital improvement plan of projects the zone can pursue over decades.

View the full Walk Bike Montrose report.

This story was through our partnership with Community Impact Newspapers