Construction for Montrose Boulevard Improvement Project likely delayed until April

The improvement project received backlash out of concerns for decades-old trees that would be cut down because of the project.

trees in Montrose
Patricia Ortiz/Houston Public Media
Most of the trees along the median of Montrose boulevard are protected by the city, according to Montrose TIRZ Chair Joe Webb. Some residents are still concerned about the trees along the sides of the road.

Construction on the first segment of the Montrose Boulevard Improvement Project has been delayed until April.

The first segment of the improvement project is estimated to cost around $14 million and will add a shared-use sidewalk for bikes and pedestrians, as well as improved drainage between West Clay Street to Allen Parkway. However, the project received some backlash in late September out of concerns for decades-old trees that would be cut down because of the project.

Mehdi Rais is a Montrose resident who is in support of the project. He said the community could benefit from improved walkability.

“Cars go on average 45 miles-per-hour on Montrose. We have multiple school zones,” he said.

Rais said he’s known about the improvement project for years, and estimates he’s attended at least 40 meetings.

“We haven’t addressed drainage or safety in over 80 years,” he said. “… This area is becoming one of the most dense areas in Houston and in Texas. And to support the kids that are walking to the schools, we need the appropriate infrastructure to support that.”

According to the Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), construction for the improvement project was estimated to begin later this month. Mayor John Whitmire said during public session earlier this week that he has plans for a town hall meeting about the project.

Danny Harries is a Montrose resident who has lived in the area for years. He said he was unaware of the project until around October and spoke at public session.

“We’re not anti-children, or anti-bicycle, or anti-drainage, or anything else,” Harries said. “It’s just the trees have got a good start. And it’s really a city of trees, in a way. It’s beautiful.”

Harries also voiced concerns similar to what some Houstonians near downtown have had over recent renovations along Houston Avenue. He said the Montrose Boulevard Improvement Project could increase road congestion.

“It’s a common route for emergency traffic to the Medical Center from the Heights and from I-10, even,” he said. “And decreasing the size of the lanes will only make it harder for people to get out of the way (of) emergency vehicles, in my opinion.”

Joe Webb is the chair of the Projects and Planning Committee at the Montrose TIRZ. He said their project maintains the four lanes that Montrose Boulevard currently has, and there are no concerns about First Responders being able to travel through the area.

“(The project will be) keeping that traffic flowing, keeping it flowing appropriately for the neighborhood, and not impeding anybody in the way of First Responders,” he said.

In regards to the trees, Webb has said previously that the Montrose TIRZ plans to replant some of the trees they cut down and also has plans to maintain them for four years. He added that some of the trees along the boulevard’s median are protected by the city.

“We like trees as much as anybody else. But there are necessities. We’ve got to remove some. We also have to replace all and upgrade all the utilities under the streets,” Webb said. “So things like that are going to be impacted. We don’t like it but it’s something that would need to happen.”

An official date for the town hall meeting proposed by the mayor has yet to be announced, but Webb said he was open to the town meeting. Jonna Hitchcock is the co-founder of the Save Montrose Live Oaks Coalition, which involves a small group of activists who first voiced their concerns about the trees along Montrose. She said she is appreciative of the delay.

“Once you take down trees, you can’t just go back and put them back up if you decided it was a mistake. So it makes sense to take our time and make sure that this project is appropriately planned, that all the potential negative repercussions have been thought through, and that every possible alternative for saving trees has been considered,” she said.

Council Member Abbie Kamin represents the Montrose area and said at public session she has seen the TIRZ host various public meetings over the course of three years.

“Public meeting after public meeting, town hall after town hall, literally allowing residents to go block by block putting Post-Its on the design to say, ‘Hey, we would like to see this at this corner, we would like this’,” she said. “That’s how the design ended up the way that it did. Because so many people provided that input, including for public safety purposes.”