Houston Looks At New Tools To Keep People From Driving Into High Water

Federal money will allow Houston to improve warning systems at some of its most flood-prone intersections. We talked to an expert about how these systems can protect Houstonians from getting trapped in their vehicles

Houston in August 2017 days after Hurricane Harvey hit.

To help make those improvements, the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Houston a $9.4 million grant. Research Engineer Robert Benz with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said with all of Houston’s underpasses and low-lying intersections, the city needs to do everything it can to warn people of high water during heavy rains.

“People are coming into the Houston area from other areas,” explained Benz. “Houston’s very flat. And where they’re from originally, maybe they don’t have the sorts of issues. Maybe this is their first storm and they don’t know.”

One thing Houston plans to do with that money is change the color of warning lights from red to yellow at locations that experience high water during heavy rains. Benz said the change will give those alerts a greater sense of urgency.

“Red means stop so hopefully citizens will heed that warning and stop,” added Benz. “It will also be overhead so hopefully it will be a little more visible.”

The money will also pay for backup power generators for the lights along with wave sensors to detect high water. Sensors will also allow those locations to be added to the Transtar and Harris County Flood Control District maps. To help with the effort, the City of Houston is contributing funds along with TxDOT and Harris County.

During Harvey, a Houston Police officer drowned after he drove into high water.


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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