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City of Houston rolls toward greater connectivity with $3.3M bridge project

Mayor Sylvester Turner bikes the new Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge. Photo by Anthony Rathbun

In effort to make Houston more walkable and bike-friendly, city organizations have completed an important step in connectivity with the opening of a crucial new bridge.

Leaders from various city groups recently celebrated the ribbon cutting for the Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge, which will serve as an important connection between the University of Houston and the future home of the UH College of Medicine — as well as MacGregor Park.

The Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge runs along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the METRO Rail Purple Line. The pedestrian/bike bridge is an essential link in the 36.98-mile Brays Bayou Greenway.

Land acquisition, design, and construction of the Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge project cost $3.3 million. Engineering firm Halff Associates, along with SWA, designed the project. The Texas Department of Transportation led the construction effort and was provided funding through the Houston-Galveston Area Council. Altus was the general contractor. The University of Houston provided the easement for the bridge.

The new connector is part of the city's Bayou Greenways 2020, a public-private partnership between the Houston Parks Board, the City of Houston, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and the Harris County Flood Control District.

Bayou Greenways 2020 will transform 3,000 acres of underutilized land along nine major waterways and create a 150-mile network of connected parks and trails along Houston's major waterways, according to a release. In 2012, Houston voters overwhelmingly approved a bond proposal that set aside $100 million for Bayou Greenways 2020.

Houston Parks Board is raising an additional $120 million and is managing acquisition, design and construction of the Bayou Greenways. More than $110 million has been raised to date, including a historic $50 million donation from the Kinder Foundation.

"The Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge is significant because it is an essential connector in the Brays Bayou Greenway trail system. In addition to benefiting the University of Houston, this bridge is also a new link for the Third Ward community," said Beth White, President and CEO of Houston Parks Board, in a statement. "Individuals and families can use the trails to commute to work, walk to school, or just for fun."

Also at the ribbon-cutting event, Houston BCycle celebrated its 100th bike share station located in MacGregor Park, which opened in October 2019. To date, the organization has 109 bike share stations across Houston.

"Bayou Greenways 2020 is about more than just recreation; it's about bringing Houstonians together," said Mayor Sylvester Turner, at the event. "Communities are strengthened through partnerships like this. Not only do we have a beautiful bridge connecting neighborhoods, like the Third Ward Complete Community, but we have a great way to explore the trails through BCycle's bike share stations."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Koda Health, Houston, uses AI to help guide difficult conversations in health care, starting with end-of-life care planning. Image via kodahealthcare.com

A new Houston-based digital advanced care planning company is streamlining some of the most difficult conversations in the health care industry around palliative care.

Founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry, Koda Health uses AI to help patients create advance medical care directives and documents—such as a living will—through an easy to use web-based interface.

Koda Health uses a conversational platform where users can enter information about their values, living situations, quality of life wishes, and more while learning about different care options at their own speed. It also uses a proprietary machine learning approach that personalizes audio-video guided dialogue based on the patient's individual and cultural preferences.

The app then autogenerates legal and medical documents, which patients can notarize or electronically witness the forms through the app or on their own.

According to Fafanova, who earned her PhD in in Molecular Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and now acts as the company's CEO, what historically has been a time consuming and expensive process, through Koda Health, takes an average of 17 minutes and is completely free of charge to the end user.

"We hope to reduce any outstanding barriers to access that might exist," Fafanova says. "It is very frequently the oldest and the poorest that are the highest utilizers of health care that don't have access to these solutions."

The app is also projected to save health care systems roughly $9,500 per patient per year, as it allows for hospitals and organizations to better plan for what their patient population is seeking in end-of-life-care.

The B2B platform was born out of the TMC's Biodesign Fellowship, which tasked Koda's founding members with finding solutions to issues surrounding geriatric care in the medical center. In March 2020, Koda incorporated. Not long after ICU beds began to fill with COVID-19 patients, "galvanizing" the team's mission, Fafanova says.

"It was no longer this conceptual thing that we needed to address and write a report on. Now it was that people were winding up in the hospital at alarming rates and none of those individuals had advanced care planning in place," she says.

After accelerating the development of the product, Koda Health is now being used by health care systems in Houston, Texas, and Virginia.

The company recently received a Phase I grant of $256,000 from the National Science Foundation, which will allow Koda to deploy the platform at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and test it against phone conversations with 900 patients. Fafanova says the company will also use the funds to continue to develop personalization algorithms to improve Kona's interface for users.

"We want to make this a platform that mimics a high quality conversation," she says.

After Koda completes the Phase I pilot program it will then be eligible to apply for a Phase II award of up to $1 million in about a year.

Koda Health was founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry. Photos via kodahealthcare.com

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