What Can Be Done To Slow Down Traffic In Houston’s Neighborhoods?

Some residents in northwest Houston are asking city leaders to get motorists to slow down as they drive past their homes on West 43rd Street. City leaders say it’s not as simple as adding speed bumps.

We all know Houston’s phenomenal growth has led to serious traffic headaches. The congestion has led some drivers to use neighborhood streets as shortcuts.

Some residents of a northwest Houston neighborhood say they’re fed up. They’d like to see some devices that would slow down drivers on their streets. The City of Houston’s response: it’s not that simple.

On a recent day, after spending a few minutes on West 43rd Street, there was a near accident. Traffic was stopped so a truck could make a left turn and someone was a little too anxious to get in the next lane.

43rd_6.jpgResidents complain that commercial trucks frequently speed on Houston’s West 43rd Street.

It’s something people in this neighborhood say they see all the time, especially on a segment of West 43rd between Ella and North Shepherd in Garden Oaks. It’s a residential area where big trees surround well-kept homes, and families stroll along sidewalks.

“It’s a four-lane road. It’s considered a major thoroughfare but the speed limit is 30,” says Shawn Spear, a longtime resident.

But do drivers obey that speed limit? Spear says no. She says when she backs out of her driveway it’s like getting on the Autobahn.

“And you feel like you have a clear shot out and then all of a sudden here comes someone just flying around the corner,” Spear says. “So it’s this kind of scary feeling like you never known when someone’s flying around. And the rudeness too.”

Jim McVay lives around the block from Spears. He shares a couple of close calls he’s had in his own neighbrohood. McVay says he always makes sure to look both ways when crossing West 43rd, even when the light is green.

“There were both times when we were heading south on Alba up here, stopped at the stop light,” McVay says. “When the light turned green for us to proceed, fortunately I didn’t proceed right away because within a second or two, a car came speeding from the left and went right through and missed us.”

Neighbors say they’ve circulated a petition signed by more than 40 neighbors to get some relief. District C Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, who represents Garden Oaks, says the situation is complicated.

“If they are speeding it’s dangerous for the neighborhood,” Cohen says. “But the question is, on a main thoroughfare, the regulations are that you can’t put in speed bumps or speed cushions and that’s the problem.”

43rd_2.jpgResidents say few drivers obey the speed limit in the Garden Oaks neighborhood in Houston.

So if you can’t put in something to control the traffic, what do you do? Cohen says that’s when you get the police involved.

“There have been instances where a lot of people have been ticketed for speeding and it has a tendency to slow people down,” Cohen says.

Henry Lara is a senior officer with the Houston Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Division. He says when you see police giving out tickets on a residential street, they’re often there because they received calls from residents in the neighbrhood.

“I think the biggest complaint we hear all the time is speeding,” Lara says. “That is one of the biggest things we always hear, that people are speeding in their neighborhoods and they would like to see more police presence.”

Lara didn’t have statistics handy on the situation on West 43rd, but he says the element of surprise can get people to slow down.

“We go out there, we work for a few days or a week or two, but we might skip a day or two and come back again,” says Lara.

Back on West 43rd Street, resident Beth Wiedower says she just wishes the city could start over and do something different.

“I would love to see a rework of the street. I know that’s pie in the sky, but I’d love to see some sort of median or turn lanes or some sort of greening of the street that encourages traffic to slow down,” Wiedower says. “It wouldn’t deter the volume of traffic necessarily, but it’s been proven to slow folks down.”

And while those may be good ideas, there are no plans right now to make those changes on West 43rd.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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