Proposed Memorial Dr. Tunnels Would Allow Grassy Hookup for North and South Sections of Memorial Park

Proposed Tunnels and Land Bridge for Memorial Park, Houston

The landscape architecture firm working on a new master plan for Memorial Park is proposing to put portions of Memorial Dr. in tunnels to allow better connections between the long-separated north and south sections of the 1,500-acre space. Drawings shown at a public meeting Wednesday demonstrated a range of strategies Nelson Byrd Woltz is considering to link some of the 24 separate sections of the park so that they are freely accessible to visitors without hazarding traffic. Tunnels over the existing roadway would be covered by an 800-ft. long “land bridge” planted with grass and trees, reports the Chronicle‘s Molly Glentzer:


Proposed Tunnels and Land Bridge for Memorial Park, Houston

Proposed Tunnels and Land Bridge for Memorial Park, Houston

The completed master plan is due in April.

Renderings: Nelson Byrd Woltz

Land Bridges

50 Comment

  • What we need is a road connecting Weslayan to Memorial Park.

  • in my opinion it would be better to place Memorial in a tunnel through the park. Imagine a “tollway” tunneling under the park and continuing into downtown. Commuters traveling on i-10 and 290 in and out of downtown would be able to avoid traffic lights all together. Of course the “tolls” could help pay for park improvements,
    flood control and mass transit in the area. I would build parking garages and public plazas at the entrances with cable cars lifting park goers over the trees to reach their destinations in the park. I would also turn Camp Logan into an actual limited access “urban” campground along the bayou where a fee is charged for sites. just a few thoughts…….in the end we have to find a way to pay for the plan, a mechanism to retire the debt on all the bonds the TIRZ will issue.

  • That is amazing. Hurry up and make it happen.

  • If you’ve seen where this has been done in other cities (e.g., Boston), you’ll recognize how big of an improvement this can be, cost notwithstanding.

  • Looks great in final form but how to not destroy and impact what little trees/vegitation that is left in creating and completing such a large scale project. I think the living bridge currently in place meets quite a few of these problems and would be less of an impact on the park.

  • yeah, i can’t imagine anyone being against this, but as they say, it’s a multi-generational proposal since we’re decades away from having the funding for such a plan. the western sections of the park (both north and south) go nearly entirely non-utilized at this point.

  • That tunnel in Boston costs billions and was over budget, it was one of the biggest boondoggles in history. I love to drive Memorial thru the park, it’s very Olmstead, it’s one of the parks greatest assets. I’m not sold at all on this tunnel, I get their rational, but I dont think it’s needed and where on earth is the money for this going to come from? I’d like to see them make the area around the railroad tracks more aestheticly pleasing, but don’t fuck with the beautiful winding Memorial Dr as it meanders thru the park, that’s the prettiest drive in Houston! Yeah, and no way RO would EVER allow a road over the bayou.

  • How very Canadian of you.

  • Oh and Memorial was given by the Hoggs with stipulations, you can’t charge to use parts of a public park given as a donation to the city to be used as park. The idea to tunnel Memorial completely under the park is absurd, it would be crazy expensive, you’d tear up a lot of the park in the process and you’d ruin a beautiful drive, yeah, never going to happen, thank God. I don’t even think this tunnel will happen, it’s just an idea they’re floating. I love Memorial Dr. it’s crazy to mess it up, it’s one of the few actually pretty drives in Houston. I was afraid of this when I saw the Landccape firm they hired, contrast this with all the sensitive work done in Hermann. Hermann was beautifully refurbished, this type of thing would never have been even floated in relation to Hermann, I love Memorial, and I’m all for improving it, but it’s already a great park, it just needs tweets like Hermann not some sort of complete reimagining. Good luck ever getting this tunnel approved

  • I have a feeling there will be something in that tunnel that resembles three Coke cans with an apple on top.

  • Holy moly, someone is thinking.

  • I like it! Proceed!

  • This should be much less expensive than Boston’s Big Dig since it appears from the concept that the “tunnels” are actually being built over the existing roadway instead of tunneled into the ground.

  • The more I look at it the less I like it. You make a beautiful open air drive thru the park into a depressing series of dark tunnels, how awful. Can you imagine them trying to float this idea for Central Park or Balboa, or Hermann they’d be sent out of town on a rail. Thankfully this mess will be fiscally not feasible and will be mercifully shelved. They paid this firm to come up with…this? I run in Memorial daily and I like the interaction with the cars roaring down Memorial, at the worst I get whistled at.

  • I like this. Need to expand this to include a way to get a jogger and biker connection to Buffalo Bayou park.

  • I’m with Shannon on this; there is no overwhelming issue that this plan will solve and Memorial Drive is fine as it currently exists. How high would the tunnel have to be to allow traffic underneath, 15 feet? A gentle slope cresting at 15 feet would require the running trail to be moved. The financial cost and disruption to the park and traffic are too high.

  • Thank you, sjh! That’s what I was thinking. This is not a dig project. Also, it’s a reclamation project. Not only will it connect disjointed sections of Memorial, but we get usable space added BACK to the park. Three lanes of roads in each direction, a median between those roads that is unusable (just got an image of picnicking in that median), and the rights-of-way from those roads comes to a lot of wasted park space. Ms. Hogg would applaud this and would probably spearhead the fundraising.

  • This should be much less expensive than Boston’s Big Dig since it appears from the concept that the “tunnels” are actually being built over the existing roadway instead of tunneled into the ground.</i
    Exactly. Grossly oversimplifying the engineering involved, they just have to build the tunnel structure on the surface of the existing grade, then cover it with dirt. Not nearly as complicated as what Boston did.

  • Completely agree with the need for better runner access to Buffalo Bayou Park from Memorial. I just hope whatever plan they come up with is feasible, love or hate this tunnel, it won’t get built, so I hope any ideas about a connection between BBP and Memorial are cost conscience. This firm would probably propose tunneling Memorial underground until it meets up with Shepherd and making a linear park. Great idea by the way, but what about all the bisiness along Memorial and the apts etc., not to mention cost.

  • Why not just install some basic pedestrian bridges and bike paths over the road? The drive through the park wouldn’t be ruined, and people could still cross thought the park safely. Costs wouldn’t be too expensive either.

  • @Shannon – The park is not intended for a driver to enjoy from the confines of their car. You should get out of your car and enjoy it.

  • It is a pretty solid concept. The park currently lacks any real open space where you can just run and play or do whatever you want. The open space would be well supported by the restrooms and showers in the new building for runners and the conservancy office on the N. Picnic lane. And it looks like it would be more of the big mound than a big dig.

  • Awesome how someone complains about how this affects this aesthetics of driving through the park. How very Houston of them.

  • I just want to drive my Ferrari through it. Imagine the sound. :)

  • Typical Houstonians, complaining about nature/outdoor improvement based on how it would effect their precious driving.

  • Shannon, The Hoggs did not give or otherwise donate the land to the City. They sold it to the City.

  • If this is built, how am I supposed to look at the occasional hot shirtless jogger?

  • If the goal is providing better pedestrian safety and access, why not tunnel the park under the road, instead of vice versa?

  • I like the idea of covering up the traffic with a tunnel. It would be nice if the jogging trail on the north side of the park weren’t completely surrounded by automobile traffic, especially on the segment that runs along Memorial Drive. All the noise and exhaust from the traffic there really detracts from the park experience. Also, crossing Memorial Drive during peak traffics times can be frustrating as a pedestrian, so a land bridge would get rid of that obstacle and possibly encourage people to use more of the park.

  • @Shannon: seriously? so what you’re saying is that over all other concerns about the park the one item you take greatest umbrage with is not how this effects the people who are actually using the park but the people who simply drive through it?? i mean…. really?!?!?? i honestly believe there couldn’t be a more myopic, asinine and counter-intuitive train of thought for how to redevelop a PARK than it’s effects on the people who drive through it. there are whole swaths of the park that go unused for the sole reason that they’re impossible to get to due to the disecting vehicular traffic. just goes to show you there are people whowill oppose any idea no matter how grand.

  • Please, God, no. It isn’t that the illustration isn’t lovely, but shutting down that area for construction for years to do that is so not worth it. Those of us near here would be utterly screwed to get where we need to go. I could go for a road connecting Weslayan to Memorial Park though!

  • First of all I run in the park daily (I said that prior), so I obviously get out of my car and use the park. It’s absurd to say that the beautiful drive thru the park should mean nothing, all that matters is claiming as much of the 1466 acres as possible. The park has hundreds of acres of space, it’s not like it’s 46 acres. Yes, the Hoggs sold it at a fraction of its worth that’s why they were able to put stipulations on the “gift”. All this blather means nothing because this will never get past a review board and will never be built, so argue away and I’ll actually enjoy the park while 90 percent of you probably don’t even know where this park is, you’re parked in front of your computer playing some assine video game…at 30.

  • “The more I look at it the less I like it. You make a beautiful open air drive thru the park into a depressing series of dark tunnels, how awful. Can you imagine them trying to float this idea for Central Park or Balboa, or Hermann they’d be sent out of town on a rail.”

    Central Park has these.

  • I’m not a big fan of the artificial hill.

    I would also prefer a trench-and-cover approach to Memorial Dr. in order to reclaim park space, increase speeds and capacities, and make the jogging experience a better one. There probably are not too many intersecting utilities that would have to be re-engineered along this stretch, and the ROW is already pretty large, so the construction cost of a project like this should be pretty manageable. It would also provide additional stormwater detention in extreme flooding events like TS Alison.

    Longer-term, I’d like to see ramps at 610 and the concept extended all the way into downtown, reclaiming additional park land along Buffalo Bayou linear park, and of course with ramps onto I-45. Considering the wealth of the areas at either end of the corridor, I’d imagine that it could be a viable toll facility. (The railroad and utility ROW provides a similar opportunity — including the possibility for a toll project that would relieve the West Loop — but that seems more unlikely on account of that Union Pacific has no incentive to change anything at all ever and because River Oaks NIMBYs would probably come out in force.)

  • why all the advocacy for tolls. memorial isn’t supposed to be a lexus lane for the rich folks, it’s supposed to be a jam packed major artery between the uptown and downtown districts. this is not a road to be discouraging drivers from using. we use taxes for a reason folks and they need to be raised if anyone is proposing changes to memorial, plain and simple.
    the arguments being laid out against this are narcissistic at best. this about increasing the health of the park (shoveling more users from the more fragile bayou area) and increasing it’s desirability to get more people utilizing it. memorial should not be thought of as just a golf course / jogging trail / nice drive through the park.

  • they had months of online surveys regarding the park last year. for the most part you could see and comment on other people’s ideas. the one with the most support was to connect the park over memorial drive. i think this plan is amazing. so much of continuous, useable space in the park is taken up by the golf course. this would create another open area for those of us who dont golf. this idea may wind up being like a concept car at a car show, all flash but dosent drive, but i would think some itteration of it will happen. with the funding coming from the TIRZ, memorial park conservency and the parks department, its not like they havent thought about where money is going to come from. how much is the ultimate question.

  • “90 percent of you probably don’t even know where this park is, you’re parked in front of your computer playing some assine video game…at 30” Seriously Shannon. This from the person who makes asinine comments all day on every story. When do you find the time to use the park?

  • @Shannon,

    The Hoggs, with partners, developed most of the real estate along Buffalo Bayou between Downtown and what is now the Galleria. Their developments always included a substantial portion of park space adjacent to the development to enhance and preserve the value of the development. The Hoggs made sure that their cronies in City Hall purchased the green space so that they, as developers, would not be stuck with the ongoing care and maintenance of the green space. Memorial Park was intended to be the buffer zone between River Oaks and whatever may develop to the North. The Hoggs were almost solely responsible for development of Memorial park and most of the other parks in the area. But altruism was never their motive. They never lost one thin dime on any sale of park space to the City of Houston. The claim is made that they gave a ten percent discount on a portion of the Memorial Park sale, The sale was made to the city in ten parts. So we really don’t know if they recouped that discount on one of the other portions.

    The Memorial Park Conservancy is the not-for-profit established by the Hogg estate to insure that the park is developed in accordance with the covenants. The Memorial Park Conservancy is the organization pushing for these significant improvements to the park space.

  • This is just pandering to the Hermann Park aesthetic crowd. We are much larger population wise and need to put money into the upgrading and expansion of facilities that people can use.

    For example…
    Memorial park needs more ball fields and upgrades to the existing ones first. IMO. We have a lack of useful park facilities and just lost a field at Levy park and prior to this one at Spotts park. Where are adults and kids going to play softball, baseball, soccer etc? Are we all just going to sit on benches, take strolls and eat cotton candy?

    And while I am on it why do the outlying areas get county parks that Houstonians fund and we get squat?

    I am not against a land bridge or two I just think this is a design practice with disregard for the citizen’s actual needs.

  • I suggest a toll road facility for several reasons, but the foremost among them is that its achievable. You might have noticed that raising taxes is a fairly unpopular thing in Texas, yes even in Houston. You might have noticed that the City is faced with some rather difficult pension obligations that it is having a difficult time fulfilling. And they already spent their political capital essentially earmarking road and drainage budget by implementing a drainage fee. They’re not in a position to take on big projects; they’re going to have a difficult time enough just keeping up the minor arterials and neighborhood streets. The other reason is that a toll road can operate using congestion pricing, which pays for the new road, keeps it flowing at capacity and gives anybody the option to use it if they really need to get downtown fast, and also enables express service for METRO on the transit supply side while making it more expensive to use cars and encouraging people to ride that express service on the the transit demand side.

    I’m not deaf to the argument that toll roads create another category of socioeconomic segregation in a city that already has problems, but congestion pricing is pretty awesome too. I think that we should have it on as many roads as possible and use it to offset other sources of tax revenue.

  • There already is a connection to Buffalo Bayou park, it’s called a sidewalk and there are two of them. Used them for years, very efficient as well..

  • @em- That sidewalk connecting buffalo park to memorial park isnt useful to bikes at all. I tried it the other day. its way too narrow and im not riding my bike on the street over there, too many crazies.

  • Guess they will use the spoil from wrecking the bayou while claiming to save it.

  • Agreed, the ped/bike connectivity issue (especially for bikes) between Memorial and Buffalo Bayou parks is a glaring deficiency at present. I can only hope that someone is addressing it. The sidewalks are not sufficiently wide to accommodate shared-use, the demand for which is likely to increase as Buffalo Bayou Park improvements are completed and folks want to ride between the two. Right now, though most probably use the sidewalk, they should really be in the street with traffic.

    The north side of Memorial lacks a sidewalk entirely for a good stretch.

  • Houston suffers so much from a lack of vision and shortsightedness. I cannot believe that (other than the expected gripes about costs) any person would be against eking more greenspace in the heart of our city. The only way this could be better is if the rail line connected this to the museum district/zoo, galleria, downtown, heights and montrose.

  • For those looking for a bike-friendly connection of Memorial Park to Buffalo Bayou, simply take Blossom Street to Jackson Hill and follow south to the Memorial Drive overpass.

  • @ Glenn. How can you possibly think renovating the bayou is a bad thing?

  • Great idea, would also recommend some kind of railing or barrier between memorial and trails to protect runners and bikers from cars.

  • Only in Houston would someone oppose a project like this by stating that it would mess up a “beautiful drive” down Memorial Dr. That is our car centric culture; hiding the road would lead to a less noise and a quiet place to get away for all Houstonians. Sorry if it messes up you 15 minute scenic drive.

  • Looks to be a superb idea. Whether cut and cover segments or a 610/Galleria to Downtown “tunnel”, you all have many great ideas worth exploring. For the naysayers, try exploring new ideas once in a while, it might help – the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is an incredible addition to Boston.