Popular Neighborhood Near Downtown Houston Looks To Fix Its Mobility Issues

Despite being close to downtown’s attractions, Old Sixth Ward residents have a problem getting there by foot or by bike. New development on Washington Avenue has also created traffic and parking challenges.

A Houston tax increment reinvenstment zone is looking for ideas to improve mobility west of downtown, including the Sixth Ward Historic District and a section of Washington Avenue that's seen an increase in development.

While parts of the neighborhood are easy to walk, it can be a challenge to get across multi-lane streets outside of residential areas, with Memorial Drive in particular acting as a barrier for people who want to walk or bike downtown, according to Phil Neisel, board chair of TIRZ 13.

"The mobility study that we're embarking upon is going to be looking for safe multimodal ways of getting in and through the zone," Neisel told Houston Public Media. "That includes on foot, by bike, and by car."

Neisel said the TIRZ wants to create improved connections to downtown Houston along with Buffalo Bayou Park, the Spring Street bike trail, and the Heights.

"The plan is going to focus on understanding that infrastructure that already exists, evaluating it for all modes of transportation," explained Neisel.

Sherry Weesner with SMW Principle Solutions, who is the administrator of TIRZ 13, said one big problem is a lack of safe pedestrian crossings on Washington Avenue.

Right now there are crosswalks at Sawyer Street and Houston Avenue, but they're separated by about nine blocks. There are also spots along the corridor that don't have adequate sidewalks, along with the fact that pedestrians and cyclists have to cross an active rail line.

“This is really looking at what we have and where the gaps are and what we can do to make those connections,” Weesner said.

TIRZ 13 plans to use findings of the study to identify both long and short-term projects. They hope to wrap up the study this spring and they're also looking for community partners and funding sources.

There’s a map of the district and more details about the study on the TIRZ 13 Mobility Plan website.

The study is soliciting input not only from TIRZ 13 residents and business owners but anyone who visits the neighborhood. The projects being considered could enhance mobility for a large section of the city, according to Eleni Pappas with engineering firm TEI Traffic Engineers.

“If we can get safer, better, and more accessible connections through the neighborhood you open up connectivity on the bikeway network as well as walking," Pappas said. "You have all these connections you’re starting to build.”

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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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