houston civil engineering

The City of Houston is Getting New Hike & Bike Trails and Energy Efficient LED Streetlights

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.

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LED Street Light

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.

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Utility Right-of-Ways

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.”

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Houston Hike & Bike Trail

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
Find Jim on Google+


Top 10 Most Impressive Houston Area Civil Engineering Projects

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As one of Houston’s oldest civil engineering firms, we at EHRA Engineering thought that it would be fun to put together a list of some of Houston’s most impressive civil engineering projects.

10.) Rice Stadium

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Rice Stadium

Rice Stadium was really ahead of its time as far as seating capacity and design, the stadium holds approx. 70,000 and features a modern design. Rice Stadium replaced Rice Field in 1950, and was actually subsidized by the City of Houston. The stadium has played host to several historical events including a famous JFK speech in 1962, and Super Bowl VIII.

9.) Reliant Stadium

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Reliant Stadium (NRG Stadium)

Reliant Stadium (Now know as NRG stadium) which opened in 2002, is one of the few stadiums that can actually make the Astrodome look small. The 1.9 million square foot facility was the first NFL stadium to feature a retractable roof. From the beginning Reliant stadium presented several interesting engineering challenges, including a natural grass playing surface within an enclosed stadium. This challenge was solved by bringing in interlocking natural grass trays. There have been several retractable roof stadiums built in the NFL since Reliant was constructed and each one has improved upon Reliant Stadium’s initial design, so in that respect Reliant Stadium served more as a proof of concept.

8.) Williams Tower

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Williams Tower

The Williams Tower, or the “Transco Tower” (as it was originally called) is a massive 64-story building located in uptown, near the Houston Galleria. Construction of the Williams tower was completed in 1982, and is one of the City of Houston’s most recognizable structures. Measuring a whopping 901 feet, the Williams Tower is the fourth tallest building in Texas, the 140th tallest building in the world, and is also considered the tallest skyscraper outside of a central business district (suburban area).

7.) The Houston Galleria

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Houston Galleria

The Houston Galleria, is the largest shopping mall in the state of Texas, the 8th largest mall in the U.S., and probably the top tourist destination in Houston. The Galleria was originally the brainchild of famous oilman Glenn McCarthy in the 1940’s and later developed in the 1970’s by Gerald D. Hines. The Galleria is directly modeled after Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (located in Milan). The Galleria features an indoor skating rink, the “polar ice” (as it was originally called when it was built in 1970) was first ever ice skating rink to be built inside a shopping mall.

6.) Houston / Buffalo Bayou Waterworks aka “The Cistern”

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Houston City Waterworks aka “The Cistern”

Originally built in 1927, the “Cistern” was the City of Houston’s first underground drinking water reservoir. Reportedly, the Cistern provided several decades of service until it eventually sprung a leak that couldn’t be located or repaired. The massive, 87,500 sq. ft. underground site features hundreds of 25 ft. tall concrete columns. To really appreciate just how colossal this site is, check out the 3-D fly through video:

5.) San Jacinto Monument

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The San Jacinto Monument

The San Jacinto monument commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto, the final battle of the Texas Revolution. The octagonal column monument stands over 560 feet tall, a little over 12 feet taller than the Washington Monument (but everything is bigger in Texas, right?) The San Jacinto monument is also considered the tallest column monument in the world, which definitely qualifies as an engineering feat in its own right. However, there is also a 220 ton 34 ft. star that sits atop the monument adding to the engineering difficulty. The San Jacinto Monument was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1992.

4.) Fred Hartman Bridge

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The Fred Hartman Bridge

After the Houston Ship Channel was deepened to accommodate larger ships, the Baytown tunnel needed to be replaced. The answer was a suspension bridge, The Fred Hartman Bridge (also know as the Baytown Bridge) which spans the Houston Ship Channel. The bridge connects the cities of Baytown and LaPorte. Carrying over two miles of Highway 146, The Fred Hartman bridge is the longest cable stayed bridge in Texas.

3.) The Astrodome

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Houston Astrodome

Nicknamed “The Eight Wonder of the World”, the Houston Astrodome has been associated with engineering innovation since its inception. Not only was the Astrodome the world’s first multi-purpose domed sports stadium, it was also one of the first stadiums to utilize “ChemGrass” (artificial turf) which later became known as “Astroturf”. Although it has been in the news recently for its possible demolition, the Astrodome was at one time considered the crown jewel of sports stadiums. Originally completed in 1964, the Astrodome stands 18 stories tall, with the dome measuring approximately 700 ft. in diameter – A major engineering feat. The Astrodome is probably one of (if not the most) iconic structures in the Houston Area.

2.) Houston Ship Channel

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The Houston Ship Channel

The 50-mile Houston Ship Channel is a man-made port that expands from the Gulf of Mexico through Galveston Bay, the San Jacinto River, and ends just 4 miles east of Downtown Houston. The channel has been used to move ocean bound goods since around 1836. The original depth of the Houston Ship Channel was 25 ft. and it was eventually dredged to approximately 40 ft. to accommodate larger ships. The massive 25-mile Port of Houston complex, located within the Houston ship channel; ranks 1st in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage and second in the U.S. in total tonnage. In 1987, the Houston Ship Channel was designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Houston Ship Channel is a very important part of the Houston economy, and definitely a top 10 engineering feat.

1.) Addicks and Barker Reservoirs

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Addicks Reservoir Aerial

Both the Addicks and Barker reservoirs help to prevent downstream flooding of the Buffalo Bayou which ultimately prevents flooding in the City of Houston. The Addicks reservoir is located in between Barker Cypress and the Sam Houston Tollway just north of Interstate 10, and covers approximately 26,000 acres. The Barker reservoir is located just to the south of Interstate 10 and west of Highway 6 and covers approx. 320 acres. Prior to the construction of these reservoirs in the late 1930’s, flooding was a serious problem within the City of Houston. Here is a video of The Great Houston Flood of 1935 (which eventually led to the creation of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs) : The Great Houston Flood of 1935 / prior to the construction of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. It is estimated that the Addicks and Barker reservoirs help to prevent approximately $16 million in average annual flood damage.

For over 75 years EHRA Engineering has helped the city of Houston grow by delivering exceptional civil engineering services. With over 14 professional disciplines under one roof, EHRA Engineering provides precise, resourceful, and innovative solutions to our customers. As Houston’s second oldest civil engineering firm, EHRA Engineering has been around long enough to see most of these amazing Houston area engineering projects through the years. We Hope that you have enjoyed our list of Top 10 Most Impressive Houston Area Civil Engineering Projects. Did we miss anything? Join the discussion let us know what you think, please visit our social media links:

Written By: Jim Russ
Find Jim on Google+