The City of Houston received a double dose of good news late last week. With the help of CenterPoint, the City of Houston will be converting approximately 165,000 streetlights from the traditional high pressure sodium, mercury vapor, and metal halide – to more energy efficient LED technology.
Not only will this be the largest project of its kind in the U.S., the move will also save the city an estimated $28 million over the next 10 years and will reduce the City’s streetlight energy usage by approximately 50%. Several cities have already transitioned to the LED technology including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Ashville, North Carolina. According to Houston’s Sustainability Director Laura Spanjian, the City of Houston’s staff has already consulted with the officials from these cities for support moving forward.
“In addition to being good for the planet, if we can cut energy consumption it’s also really good for the City’s bottom line,” said Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker.
While CenterPoint President and CEO Scott Prochazka added, “The City of Houston continues to be a leader among U.S. cities when it comes to energy efficiency.”
In addition to the new LED streetlights, the City has reached an agreement that will allow hiking and biking trails along CenterPoint’s utility right-of-ways. The usage of these utility right-of-ways will help to greatly expand the City’s rapidly growing network of hiking and biking trails.
There are over 900 miles of CenterPoint right-of-way within Harris County and approximately 410 miles within the City of Houston. It is estimated that approximately 140 miles of right-of-way sit directly under electrical transmission lines which happen to be the most logical place for the new trails. Most of the City’s current hike & bike trails follow the City’s Bayous, which primarily run east to west, while there are very few hike & bike trails that currently run north to south. Fortunately, most of the existing right-of-ways run north to South. Once the new north to south running right-of-way trails are combined with the existing east to west bayou trails, the city will have a massive network of interconnecting hiking and biking trails. Director of Harris County Housing Authority and avid bicycle supporter Tom McCasland puts it, “A freeway system for bicycles that connects the bayou trails and gives you a grid of trails. Where you’re able to get off and go to the side streets as opposed to the thoroughfares where vehicles are 45 miles per hour plus.”
“We also have a lot of miles of bayou trails to install, but this allows us to make a more complete system” said Mayor Parker.
After making the announcement, CenterPoint committed $1.5 million towards the first leg of the trails project for a yet to be determined site. The ability for the City to use the utility right-of-ways for recreational use was years in the making. Bills were initially filed to use the utility right-of-ways for recreational use as early as 2007 but plans were hindered once questions arose over how much liability would fall on CenterPoint. However, a compromise was finally reached last year. Under the new agreement the utility is only liable for injury or death caused by its own “willful or wanton acts or gross negligence” and the City of Houston would end up paying the utility’s legal bills if lawsuits are filed.
“Our partnership with CenterPoint will reduce Houston’s carbon footprint, increase the quality of outdoor lighting, improve connections in our burgeoning hike and bike trail system and improve the quality of life and safety of residents – all while saving the City money,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “These are big wins for Houston.”
This news is especially, significant for EHRA Engineering because it means that two new trail segments can be built along Houston’s waterways in two utility districts: West Harris County MUD No. 9 and Northwest Harris County MUD No. 6. As one of our associates in the landscape architecture department, Adrienne Bottoms put it, “This agreement has been long awaited, and our districts are excited to move forward.” Katie Golzarri, EHRA’s Landscape Architecture Department Manager, also said that for one of EHRA’s utility districts, this agreement means they are able to construct the final trail segment that will connect all of the existing trails that have been constructed for the neighborhood, and residents are anxious to get started. These two trail systems will be implemented along White Oak Bayou and Greens Bayou.
Big wins for Houston indeed.
For Additional information:
Mayor Anise Parker’s Official press release: http://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/press/20140530.html
Written By: Jim Russ
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