Bagby Street is Houston’s First Greenroads Certified Corridor

Electric and hybrid vehicles may be the height of automotive sustainability on our nation’s highways, but what about the road beneath their wheels? The transportation industry is moving toward sustainability, not just in the cars we drive, but also the roads we drive them on. In Houston, KCI provided construction management and inspection services for Bagby Street, the city’s first Greenroads certified project.

Located in the Midtown District, the one-way arterial carries heavy traffic volumes between two major highways. The 10-block corridor also bisects a dense urban center where targeted redevelopment efforts have successfully produced a thriving mixed-use community.

Bagby Street had been experiencing significant drainage problems, and a study revealed that a large storm drainage line underneath the roadway needed to be upsized. According to Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) Manager of Capital Projects Marlon Marshall, the project became an opportunity for the organization to show its commitment to the community. In addition to alleviating flooding in the region, the project would create a smoother riding surface for vehicular traffic as well as lower traffic speeds to align with the pedestrian-oriented goals of the neighborhood.

MRA also recognized the potential of incorporating a sustainability certification process as a means of attracting new development while benefiting the environment. The Greenroads rating system is a third-party, points-based system for evaluating sustainable roadway and transportation infrastructure projects. Requirements include documenting quality control, noise mitigation, waste management and recycling; tracking water use; and incorporating recycled and local materials. Greenroads also offered a format to develop and measure goals and track the project’s success.

 

Bagby Street Sustainable Roadway Night Aerial Slyworks-Photography
When the Midtown Redevelopment Authority was formed in 1995, the 617-acre tax increment reinvestment zone had a base tax role of $157 million; today it is $1.2 billion. Although the early focus in the area had been on attracting more residents, MRA has to ensure that the region’s infrastructure sufficiently supports multi-family and other development in the district. Credit: Slyworks Photography

Seeking certification forced the team to be engaged early on and think sustainability throughout the project life cycle. “In the past, our projects had been one size fits all for an entire corridor,” said Marshall. “For Bagby, we took a different approach by incorporating unique elements for each block based on existing conditions and redevelopment potential.”

Through our acquisition of Houston-based ESPA CORP, KCI came on board during the pre-construction phase to serve as owner’s representative. The firm’s on-site inspector oversaw the entire reconstruction project, including installation of sustainable materials and systems, such as LED street lighting and numerous rain gardens that collect and treat 33 percent of the stormwater runoff.

Bagby Street Sustainable Roadway Rain Garden Slyworks-Photography
Houston’s annual rainfall averages around 50 inches per year. Before being discharged into local bayous, stormwater along Bagby Street is now collected in rain gardens, which use native plants, trees and mulch to filter pollutants like bacteria, phosphorous, oil and suspended solids. The concrete surrounding each rain garden contains a marker describing the number of gallons treated within. Credit: Slyworks Photography

“We had to submit on all materials used and where they came from to ensure we were minimizing emissions,” said KCI project manager Zachery S. Martin. “Since this was a first for all of us, the engineering, landscape architecture, contractor and construction management team worked closely together to document the credits we were pursuing.”

Other challenges included significant public participation throughout design, and especially during construction. “We sought to minimize negative impacts to local businesses while ensuring that residents were at ease with the project,” said Martin. “During monthly progress meetings, stakeholders were invited to voice concerns, and we would work with the contractor and MRA to quickly address issues that could be resolved.” According to Marshall, the district has a highly engaged and very knowledgeable constituency. “Being a redevelopment authority, we have to make prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

 

Barby Street Sustainable Roadway Pedestrian Amenities Slyworks-Photography
The required certification measures did not significantly increase the project’s $9.6 million construction cost. Instead, the team was able to realize cost savings through different materials like native plants. MRA also expects to capitalize on potential long-term savings associated with adapted landscaping and fly ash concrete, both attributing to the credits required for certification. Credit Slyworks-Photography

Last year, Bagby Street became the first officially certified Greenroads project in Texas, at the time earning the highest score among the eight projects certified to date. It is also the first successful effort as part of the city’s Complete Streets program, called out in Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s executive order to build roadways that take into account all users, not just cars. MRA is already reporting additional development along the corridor, attributing much of that to the upscale, more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. The organization has identified and started design on their next roadway reconstruction projects, which will also pursue Greenroads certification.

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