Park your car. Wait for the shuttle. Ride the shuttle to the University of Houston campus. It’s a daily routine for thousands of students, faculty and staff who park in the economy lots at the UH Energy Research Park (ERP), a 74-acre property along the Gulf Freeway a few miles south of campus. Parking is plentiful, but “it’s a bit disconnected” says senior computer information systems major Patrick Craig.
The shuttle has been the only option for those wanting to take advantage of ERP parking. Not anymore. A new bicycle and pedestrian pathway along Brays Bayou, expected to be completed by late fall or early winter 2017, will not only connect ERP to campus but also to 300 miles of trails already in place throughout Houston.
“It’s a great idea. It benefits everyone’s health by walking or cycling more,” Craig said.
The $30 million Houston Regional Bike/Ped Connections to Transit Project closes five critical gaps of highly trafficked shared-use paths in the city. The Brays Bayou section, which cost about $3.4 million, filled the last remaining 1.7-mile gap from MacGregor Park to Old Spanish Trail near the UH campus, leading to bus stops and a light rail station. The 0.6-mile portion connecting ERP to UH has a parallel path for electric carts.
“The University is always looking for environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to improve campus life,” said Jason Trippier, director of UHS Properties. “These projects will provide the infrastructure necessary for alternative commuting that will contribute to the economic and physical health of the community.”
The project was made possible through donations and a $15 million federal TIGER grant or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant awarded to the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. UH committed to funding a percentage of the project, which totaled more than $468,000 in financial contributions to the Houston Parks Board, including the sale of land along Brays Bayou and conveying easements.
“In addition to creating a pathway between the UH campus and ERP, students will have access to a safe environment that is away from traffic and is connected to other major parks throughout Houston,” Trippier said.
Now more connected than ever, students like Gracie Benavides are happy to have another option for both parking and biking a new trail.
“That’s great! Sometimes the buses take longer than expected, so taking the pathway might be a quicker way to campus. It’s definitely an option I will take,” she said.