Katy City Council kicks off $33M mobility package
Monday, February 28, 2022
By: Laura Aebi - Community Impact
The city of Katy will spend $33 million on nine transportation projects over the next three years that aim to increase mobility, decrease congestion and prepare for growth, officials said.
On Jan. 10, Katy City Council approved a $33 million transportation package funded by Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County and the Katy Development Authority. The funding consists of $23.05 million from the city’s General Mobility Program agreement with METRO and $10.47 million from cash funds.
“This is a great opportunity for us to do a lot of mobility projects,” Katy City Administrator Byron Hebert said. “We’re doing major infrastructure improvements in all three counties.”
The four projects funded by METRO’s GMP bond include realigning the intersection of Pitts and Morton roads and widening Morton, Katy Hockley and Pederson roads.
Meanwhile, the five KDA cash-funded projects include Phase 3 of the Boardwalk Drive project; extending Prairie Parkway; and widening First Street, Pitts Road and Cane Island Parkway.
According to Hebert, the KDA cash funds and METRO funds are both collected through the city’s agreement with METRO.
Now, those funds are being used to facilitate projects in the northwest side of Katy. Projections made for Katy ISD by demographic firm Population and Survey Analysts in a November 2021 report said much of the area’s future growth will take place in its northwest portion, where the transportation projects will be taking place.
“The city is rapidly growing, and while traffic congestion is unavoidable, the city is trying to ... take proactive steps to ensure that the population growth is accommodated in its infrastructure planning,” Hebert said.
Mobility needs grow as the area becomes more densely populated, and the selected projects aim to address existing and future congestion in the city’s most trafficked thoroughfares, according to city documents.
Three projects will begin in 2022 as well as five in 2023 and one in 2024. The first two projects will break ground in May, while the third will begin in October, per city officials. Each project includes a drainage element, such as a sewer system.
The second of three phases of the Boardwalk District’s road system, including Lakeview Way and part of Boardwalk Drive, was recently completed. The district is an in-progress mixed-use district, which will feature office, retail, dining and entertainment.
Phase 3 of the Boardwalk District project will extend Katy Fort Bend Road, making a new entrance. The $2.37 million project will begin in May and finish in February 2023, according to city officials.
“We’re going to make a new entrance into the Boardwalk District, coming from Katy Fort Bend Road, crossing a ditch,” City Engineer David Kasper said. “It’ll be a more grand entrance ... coming from the north side.”
Another boardwalk project will extend Prairie Parkway from Boardwalk Drive to Kingsland Boulevard. That $1.86 million project will take place from May to December.
In October, the First Street widening project will begin at Bartlett Road and extend to Avenue D. It will also include replacing a bridge over the Cane Island branch of Buffalo Bayou, according to the Jan. 10 City Council meeting.
Five projects will begin in 2023—widening Pederson Road, Pitts Road, Cane Island Parkway and Morton Road; and realigning Pitts Road.
The project to widen Pederson Road from the Katy Freeway to Hwy. 90 will cost $4.25 million. When complete, the road will be widened to a four-lane concrete roadway with storm sewers.
Pitts Road, costing $1.66 million, will gain two lanes from Cane Island Parkway to Morton Road. Cane Island Parkway, costing $1.87 million, will gain two lanes from Swift Way to Franz Road, according to city officials.
“There is going to be a lot of congestion for a little while—but then it’s going to be great,” Hebert said.
Additionally, the intersection realignment project will align the new Pitts Road in Cane Island with the existing Pitts Road north of Morton Road, according to a presentation at the Jan. 10 meeting. It will include a new concrete boulevard, a traffic signal and a storm sewer system.
Meanwhile, the project to widen Morton Road from Katy Hockley Road to Pitts Road will break ground in April 2023. When complete in June 2024, it will be a four-lane undivided road.
“It’s gonna look exactly like everything east of Katy Hockley [Road], just pushed on down to Pitts [Road],” Kasper said.
The project, however, drew concerns from city officials at the meeting.
“Residents are adamant that they don’t want it,” Council Member Rory Robertson said. “They don’t want the expansion. ... It’s undivided, which is a good thing. There’s no way it could be divided.”
He also voiced concerns about the project’s construction as development has negatively impacted the area’s drainage in the past.
“[Drainage] is a big component,” he said. “They’ve been hit. So I want to make sure the drainage is [good].”
Councilmember Gina Hicks said she shared the same concerns. Kasper said the plan for Morton Road will divert water to Leyendecker Landing, a nearby park that will serve as a critical detention pond during flood events.
The most expensive of the nine projects, the $7.72 million Katy Hockley widening project, will break ground in 2024. The road will expand to four lanes between Morton Road and Clay Road. It will begin in 2024 after the Pitts intersection realignment is complete to avoid too much congestion, officials said.
Funding mobility needs
All nine projects will be funded by METRO’s GMP through the KDA.
According to METRO officials, METRO collects a portion of sales tax revenue from the city of Houston, Harris County and 14 other Houston-area cities—including Katy. Then, some of the taxes can be rebated back to the entities as part of the GMP.
That rebate program funds mobility projects, like bridges, sidewalks, bike trails, drainage, roads and traffic signals, METRO officials said.
“The city has assigned the agreement to the KDA to administer the projects,” Hebert said.
Then, the KDA either utilizes the funds to “cash-fund” transportation projects—or it can sell bonds to fund a broader scope of projects, Hebert said.
According to Hebert, the yearly payments from METRO vary because the funding is dependent on sales tax collections from Katy.
According to city officials, METRO remitted $6.37 million to the city of Katy in 2020. In 2021, payments totaled $6.62 million through October. Hebert said the payments lag a few months to provide METRO time to process them accurately.
The multiyear GMP agreement between METRO and the city of Katy began in 2014 and extends to 2040. The $23.05 million—the portion of the $33 million package that did not come from cash funds—is an accumulation of METRO funds over several years, officials said.
“This does not cost the taxpayers anything,” Hebert said. “This is all done through sales tax.”
Meanwhile, the KDA was originally created by the city to establish the use of METRO funds and to promote economic development via public-private partnerships, city officials said.
“Instead of us doing buses [through METRO funds], we do transportation projects,” Katy City Attorney Art Pertile said at the Jan. 10 meeting. “KDA was created [to] use those funds [for] these types of projects.”
When the city is determining which projects to pursue, officials factor in traffic flow and anticipated population growth. The city engineer proposed a project plan that was approved by City Council and the KDA board of directors.
One of KDA’s public-private partnerships is the agreement with the Katy Boardwalk District’s developer, Houston-based Sueba USA Corp.
According to KDA officials, it is not unusual to have so many projects at one time, but they do not always have a comprehensive plan like this in place.
“Typically, [the KDA] has several road projects ongoing at any given time,” Hebert said. “However, in this instance, [we] determined there was added value in having a detailed comprehensive plan—and associated funding in place—to improve and expand the roadways within the city.”