The Main Street Improvement Project enhanced and revitalized key hubs of activity in downtown Houston. Main Street is one of the primary corridors for Houston’s light rail system, METRORail. This capital improvement project provided for widening sidewalks, with granite pavers in some zones; new landscaping including raised planters; improved lighting systems and wayfinding signage on a 19-block length of Main Street in downtown Houston.
The $7.5 million construction project began in June of 2015 and called for the majority of the project to be complete by the end of March 2016, just prior to Houston hosting the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. This timeline proved to be the first obstacle to overcome. Due to the work of precedent trades, Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. (CMS) could not start our work until late December, 2015. As a result, CMS had to install 17,000 sq. ft. of granite pavers as well as 1,115 lin. ft. of granite curb and 300 pieces of granite on two planters in three and a half months. The tight schedule coupled with the fact that the sidewalks had to remain open to pedestrian traffic and the entrances to all buildings and storefronts had to be accessible while they are open for business required thorough planning. In order to keep the sidewalk open for pedestrians, CMS completed work on one half of the sidewalk then moved to the other side. Work on Sundays and after 11:00 p.m. was required to complete sidewalks at the building entrances and storefronts.
The installation of the 6” thick x 2’ long solid granite curb pieces that formed shallow planter beds as well as serving as a barrier between the rail tracks and the sidewalks presented another challenge. Many of the curbs were only 2’ from the rail tracks, which remained operational for the length of the project. During the required METRO Safety Training, CMS learned that work would not be allowed within 14’ of the tracks when a train was passing. METRO provided a crossing guard to alert employees to stop working when the train was approaching. Based on the rail schedule during normal working hours, all work on the curb had to stop every ten minutes while the train passed. In order to overcome this inconvenience, stainless steel dowel pins were epoxied into predrilled holes in the bottoms of the curb pieces followed by a careful layout on the sidewalk. Holes for the stainless steel dowel pins were then drilled into the concrete and the curb pieces were distributed adjacent to their setting location. With this additional preparation, the stone setter was able to efficiently install the pieces in spite of the delays every ten minutes.
The project was completed on time and the Main Street Square pedestrian plaza has never looked better. The Main Street Improvement Project has created a space that not only guests, but Houstonians can use and enjoy long into the future.