Safer pedestrian/cyclist crossings project conceived as a future benchmark for major intersections
A landmark project conceived by The Energy Corridor District (ECD) to make busy highway frontage road intersections safer for pedestrians and cyclists is set to begin using a “Dutch Junction” design that will be a first for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
The protected intersections project will remake three busy crossings along IH-10 using a design that The District hopes will become a benchmark in Texas. The District-design employs distinct, well-marked lanes for cyclists and pedestrians, more separation from vehicular traffic and protected islands as buffers from right-turning motorists.
All told, six intersections along IH-10 will be improved by TxDOT as part of the $3 million effort to enhance pedestrian/cyclist safety. The District is paying for 20 percent of the project.
Construction will begin in November to create Dutch Junction-style protected intersections along IH-10 at Highway 6, Eldridge Parkway and Dairy Ashford, says Robert Rayburn, landscape architect for The District. Three other intersections along IH-10 at Barker Cypress, Park Ten and Kirkwood will receive upgrades.
Residents, businesses and commuters can sign up for construction updates on possible lane closures by visiting energycorridor.org and clicking on “Contact Us” to subscribe.
Protected intersections known as Dutch Junctions – inspired by the Netherlands’ cyclist-filled streets – are gaining recognition as a way to create safer travel for bike riders and pedestrians, who in surveys cite concern for safety comfort as the number one deterrent to walking or biking.
Texas A&M Transportation Services – with help from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) – just completed the nation’s first Dutch Junction intersection without traffic lights as a test project on the university’s campus in College Station.
“We worked extensively with TxDOT to create a design that we hope will become the standard in Texas for creating protected intersections,” explains Clark Martinson, executive director of The District. “Installing protected intersections is a way to overcome what pedestrians and bicyclists repeatedly cite as their main reason not to walk or bike. People ride bikes more often when they perceive they can travel safely, with a comfortable distance from motorized traffic.”
And it can be dangerous to commute by walking in Texas – where nearly 4,200 pedestrians died in vehicular collisions between 2003 and 2012, according to the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America, a nonprofit group that advocates for neighborhood safety. That puts Texas as the 10th most dangerous state for walking. Pedestrian fatalities totaled 550 in 2015 alone, nearly a 13 percent jump from 2014, according to TxDOT.
Nationwide, an estimated 48,000 pedacyclists were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with nearly 70 percent occurring in urban areas.
“Building in island buffers, more separation between pedestrians and bicyclists, and better marked ped-bike lanes at intersections along IH-10 can encourage both motorists and bicyclists to observe traffic laws and travel more safely,” explains Martinson.
In addition, the Katy Freeway intersections both at Park 10 Boulevard and Barker Cypress will receive upgrades as part of the project. Park 10 Boulevard at the IH-10 frontage road will gain protected corners on the north side of the intersection, along with a separate bike crosswalk. That street accesses numerous businesses and leads to Park Row Drive as a two-mile bike trip to the Addicks Park and Ride.
More protected intersections on the way
Plans are also underway to significantly upgrade a bustling Energy Corridor intersection at Memorial Drive and Eldridge Parkway as part of The District’s master plan vision to create safer places to walk and bike.
The District project would transform the bustling intersection with a major safety overhaul by adding a protected right turn for vehicles, separate bikes lanes and pedestrian crosswalks, and island buffers as rest spaces for pedestrians crossing what is a very wide intersection with retail on two corners opposite the Eldridge Place office tower complex.
To get that done, The ECD is working in tandem with the City of Houston as it rebuilds Memorial Drive from Kirkwood to the west. For the needed right-of-way, The District is working with the property owners on all four corners.