Transportation

Residents Sound Off On Proposed Changes To A Busy Heights Thoroughfare

Cycling advocates say the work is desperately needed, but some neighbors question whether it will actually make the road safer.

Eleventh Street is a major artery that carries a lot of east-west traffic through the Heights. But getting across the busy street can be a struggle for pedestrians and cyclists. To cut down on speeding and weaving, Houston Public Works now wants to put a section of 11th Street on a “road diet.”

Under that plan, the four-lane street between Michaux and Shepherd — about a mile and a half segment — would be reduced to one lane in each direction. There would also be a center lane for left turns along with on-street bike lanes. All the changes would be made within the street’s existing footprint.

City engineers are focused in particular on the intersection of 11th and Nicholson, where an off-street bike trail meets the busy street. Public Works Supervising Engineer Ian Hlavacek said plans call for a median that would create a refuge for people trying to cross.

“What we’re trying to do now is come back with engineering improvements throughout the city to make it very clear, not just hope that people are familiar with what they’re supposed to do within the law, but so that the geometry of the roadway really speaks to what the safe operations are,” said Hlavacek.

At a recent public meeting in the Heights, Bike Houston Advocacy Direction Jessica Wiggins was one of those speaking in favor of the project.

“From the perspective of a person walking or biking it’s scary,” said Wiggins of the current Nicholson Street crosswalk. “Frankly we have a good reason to be scared. People are traveling 40, 50, even above that on 11th Street.”

But some neighbors expressed concern about the proposal. Heights-area resident Bob Choate questioned whether a redesigned 11th Street could handle a growing bulk of traffic. 

“There are safety concerns, but there’s also the concern that traffic does need to keep moving,” said Choate. “We have people who live here, people who own businesses. And there’s concern that some of the opinions, the thoughts of the citizens aren’t really being heard.”

And Kathy Roth-Choate said she’s worried about the on-street bikeways.

“I understand the need for the road diet if that’s their proposal, but adding bikes in after that seems to be completely reducing the safety,” said Roth-Choate. “Adding the bike lanes so close to the vehicles and having vehicles crossing over and turning seems to me to be a recipe for disaster.”

Houston Public Works is currently taking public comment on the project and could start design work a few months from now. Hlavacek said they don’t yet have a price estimate for the project, but he said most of the work would consist of restriping the roadway.

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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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