Infrastructure

Houston Public Works begins removal process of recently-placed medians along Houston Avenue

The medians, which were installed in mid-December, were originally placed to help pedestrians have an easier time crossing a six-lane road.

Medians along Houston Avenue to be removed out of concerns for public safety
Patricia Ortiz/Houston Public Media
Medians that were placed from Lubbock street to Washington avenue along Houston avenue will be removed due to concerns for public safety.

Houston Public Works is beginning the removal process for medians and curbs along Houston Avenue near Downtown this week after concerns about whether they hinder larger vehicles.

The Houston Avenue Multimodal Improvements project was originally intended to make the six-lane street easier for pedestrians to cross. The project was recently completed in mid-December, at a time when some locals opposed the project, while advocates felt it did not go far enough.

Joe Cutrufo is the Executive Director for Bike Houston, an organization that was displeased with the project at the time because the project did not include bike lanes. He said, however, the current layout of the project provides an opportunity for pedestrians to get to a safer spot halfway through the street.

“If you wanted to walk halfway across the street and then wait and look and cross the second half of the street, you could do that,” he said. “… these center islands have caused drivers to probably subconsciously slow down a little bit when they make their turns, and drive more carefully when they make these turns; the way that you would design a street so people aren’t acting like they’re on a highway.”

Trinity Downtown, a Lutheran church along Houston Avenue, has opposed the medians because they say drivers now have trouble getting into the church’s parking lot. Mayor John Whitmire said during a public session hearing last week that one of the church’s preachers reached out to him.

“They talked about it in open church service Sunday (Jan. 28). That’s when I started getting calls,” he said.

Whitmire also called the medians a hazard. “METRO, who had a bus that went up on [the median] … There was an 18-wheeler, got bogged down on the esplanade yesterday. There’s questions about the design of the Houston project,” he said.

Last year, there were at least 60 pedestrian deaths related to auto-pedestrian collisions in Harris County. Auto-pedestrian deaths have been increasing since 2021.

Councilor Mario Castillo represents the area and said he would have liked more data before the project was dismantled.

“The hard data is what I would like to see. I’ve reached out to the (Houston) Fire Department to get more information on specifics that they’ve had with impacts to their vehicles and their response time with this intersection,” he said.

Castillo is also concerned about the new administration’s lack of transparency before the process started.

“Information and the answers that my constituents have, I want to be able to get that to them. And not being a part of this process, and not being able to do that, it’s frustrating,” he said. “If this is the standard for transparency that we’re gonna have, we need to do better.”