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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.

The Ion's accelerator program has pivoted to more prominately feature startups with resiliency solutions. Photo courtesy of The Ion

The Ion's accelerator program has taken the current COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to focus on resiliency. The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator, as it's now known, will launch it's second cohort virtually at the end of the month.

"Resiliency has always been a core pillar of our accelerator — in my opinion, you really can't have a smart city unless you're a resilient city," Galib tells InnovationMap. "Language is so important to our culture, and we had not had that word in the accelerator, and so now we do."

The change is effective immediately and comes just ahead of the accelerator's second cohort, which will focus on air quality, water purification, and clean tech. Just like the first cohort, the selected startups will participate in a few months of programming — this time, all online — before entering into pilot programs with the city of Houston.

Later in this spring, the accelerator plans to call for remote education and online technologies. With schools closed, Galib says she's seen a need for tech optimization for both students and teachers.

"By harnessing smart technologies, cities become more resilient in the face of crises," says Gabriella Rowe, executive director of The Ion, in a news release. "The innovation of the Ion Smart & Resilient Cities Accelerator will empower and create the smart technology we need to keep our city's operations moving and our residents safe as we inevitably face sociological challenges and natural disasters. We are excited to play a role in improving our city's fabric and quality of life."

The first cohort resulted in a collective fifteen projects across nine startups. The program is backed by the city of Houston, Microsoft, Intel, and TXRX. The third cohort is expected to launch toward the end of 2020, and Galib says she's not sure what the focus will be yet.

"As we look toward the Ion's opening in January 2021, I look at the accelerator program and its capacity to accelerate entrepreneurship spirit," Galib says. "I truly see the next few months as a chance for us to double down on our efforts to find entrepreneurship everywhere in Houston so that we see every entrepreneur from all walks of life."