Bayou Greenways Hike and Bike Trail System

Active transportation engineering

Over the past decade, RPS has worked with Houston Parks Board (HPB) on more than 10, 1- to 6 -mile trail segments that are a part of their monumental Bayou Greenways Initiative. Project scopes encompassed over 23 miles of shared use trails, 4 pedestrian bridges, parking lots, trailheads, more than 6 underbridge crossings, utility conflict coordination, detention, neighborhood connections, low-flow culvert crossings, kayak launches, and more. Construction costs for only the projects we were part of total nearly $45 million. 

Parks for everyone

The client’s mission is to “create, improve, protect, and advocate for parks for everyone”.  They strive to do this by efficiently designing and constructing trails, highlighting natural elements, using sustainable materials, and making critical connections to the community.

"Properly engineered trails provide a safer, more comfortable environment for the growing number of people riding bikes or using other forms of active transportation. Plus, they benefit everyone."

park and trail engineering design

Key Details


Houston Parks Board


Houston, TX

Bayous worked on include:

  • White Oak Bayou
  • Brays Bayou
  • Greens
  • Halls
  • Sims
  • Centerpoint Easements

Services provided: 

  • preliminary design
  • environmental evaluations
  • construction document design
  • cost estimates
  • permit documents
  • bidding
  • limited construction phase services and construction management. 

Connecting pathways


In order to provide full connectivity, numerous waterways required crossings.  This included spanning sections as small as 80 feet to 240 feet.  


To accomplish this, each area was looked at separately.  Main streams required full clearance over the floodway with elevated bridge structures.  Other crossings could be accomplished with a low-flow culvert.  In each case, hydrologic and hydraulic analyses were performed to prove that the design provided did not impact the waterway.  Each of these then had to obtain approval through their governing agency, often times including the US Army Corps of Engineers.

park and trail design engineering

Floodplain considerations


One particular parking lot location was not only in the floodplain but the floodway.  The small space also needed detention for any impervious cover.


We ensured the grading for the parking closely matched the existing ground to not impede any flow and proposed using a combination of concrete and permeable pavers to design the parking.  This combination minimized the detention required, offered a unique aesthetic that complimented the adjacent park, provided the detention we needed through the underground voids, eliminated the need for inlets in the pavement, and enhanced water quality. In the end, it was more cost-effective than a standard all-concrete driveway and parking lot. 

park and trails engineering design

Detention planning


A relatively small amount of detention was determined to be needed at a trailhead location, however, it was in a fairly wooded area where the goal was to leave as many existing trees as possible. 


Instead of providing a standard rectangular-shaped depression that would indiscriminately remove a swath of trees, the design team worked together to define a more natural, meandering detention boundary.  A field visit was used to physically stake out the edge of detention based on critical trees to save; this was surveyed and then brought into AutoCAD to refine and determine depths to achieve the detention required.  The area is now a wetland that meanders back into the trees.

Detention planning Houston parks

Active transportation design success

We worked closely with the Client and landscape architect on each of these trail segments to produce a successful project, one that met HPB’s mission.  RPS provided engineering designs that dealt with tight site constraints to achieve community connections and safer underbridge crossings.  Diligent coordination with reviewing agencies was also key to these goals.

Completion and construction of all items mentioned in the summary. 

  • Drainage modeling and analysis
  • Parking lot design
  • Trail and sidewalk design
  • Linear park design
  • Low-flow culverts and other water crossings

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