On a regular weekday Christian Balderas sees a lot of traffic from the print shop where she works. But on the weekends when thousands of people visit Airline Drive’s massive flea markets, it really backs up.
And the problem is compounded for pedestrians.
Balderas sees people using well-worn paths on the side of the street because there aren’t any sidewalks.
“I think that’s where you get the little car accidents, because you have people walking near the street, right on the side.”
Getting across Airline is also an issue.
The roadway has two lanes in each direction. There’s a turning lane in the middle, and only one crosswalk.
“When you have that many people, 30,000 people and up, coming every weekend to an area, you have to really look at mobility issues.”
The Airline Improvement District says the north Harris County flea markets attract thousands of visitors every weekend.
That’s Teri Koerth. She’s Executive Director of the Airline Improvement District. The district is north of the Houston city limits, just west of the Hardy Toll Road.
“From Gulf Bank to Canino there are no sidewalks on either side. And when you have a large number of folks coming to an area every weekend and no sidewalks that presents a problem.”
But Koerth hopes things are about to get a lot safer, thanks to $2.5 million in federal funds, and a local match from the improvement district of about one million.
The funding came about after a mobility study from the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
The money will pay for sidewalks on both sides of the street, from West Mitchell to north of Canino. Foot traffic will be funneled to a new crosswalk.
And the turning lane will become a landscaped median that provides a safe haven for pedestrians.
“People will want to come more because they will feel more safe. But also, visually, it’s going to impact the area. We’re going to have the sidewalks, we’re going to have landscaping, and it’s going to improve the looks of the area as well.”
The project also calls for new bus shelters and bike racks.
Work is expected to start in early 2014.