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If you could wave a magic wand and redesign a street in Houston, what would you change and why? – Houston Public Media

If you could wave a magic wand and redesign a street in Houston, what would you change and why? – Houston Public Media

If you could wave a magic wand and redesign a street in Houston, what would you change and why? – Houston Public Media

Gail Delaughter/Houston Public Media

Interstate 45 at its intersection with Sims Bayou in southeast Houston.

https://cdn.houstonpublicmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/05104354/redesigning-a-road-HM-070524.mp3?srcid=rss-feed

There are all kinds of reasons why the roads we drive on aren’t ideal: budgets, politics, changes in traffic flow, wear and tear, safety, unintended consequences. But imagine for a moment that none of that mattered and you could, with a wave of a magic wand, rebuild a road you drive on here in the Houston area any way you wanted. What road would you change? How would you change it? And why?

We asked our fellow Houstonians this question this week and received some fascinating (and detailed) responses.

In the audio above, we discuss several of them with some guests who spend a lot of time thinking about the ways we get from point A to point B here in the Houston area. Robin Holzer is the deputy director of the nonprofit advocacy group BikeHouston. Christof Spieler is a structural engineer and urban planner who teaches at Rice University. And Gabe Cazares is the executive director of LINKHouston, which advocates for better walking, biking, transit, and ridesharing options in the Houston area.

SOME ROADS LISTENERS WANT TO REDESIGN:

Waugh From Washington to Dallas: CW wrote to us to say, “I would redesign Waugh/Heights between Washington and Dallas. Waugh is oddly too wide as it crosses Buffalo Bayou and Memorial, and the cloverleaf takes away acres of usable parkland from public access. Additionally, a redesign could incorporate walking/biking trails that would allow for a critical north-south connection (which doesn’t really exist east of Shepherd) and link the Heights Blvd. bike lanes with the Waugh/Commonwealth bike lanes.”

Officials say Lower Westheimer suffers from poor infrastructure.
Traffic along Lower Westheimer in Montrose.

Remake Westheimer: A listener named Dan said he wants to see Westheimer Road remade from Highway 6 to Montrose and downtown. His vision? “Reducing car lanes to two in each direction with bi-directional bike lanes on each side, light rail on each side with stops at almost every major cross street, sidewalks widened to eight feet on each side, shade trees planted between the sidewalks and bike lanes every 50-75 feet. And a median filled with shade trees.”

Other suggestions from Westheimer: A listener named Kate also wants changes on Westheimer. She’s focusing on the area from 610 to downtown and wants to see better, wider sidewalks there and on Montrose north of 59th. She’d also install more lights and pedestrian islands at mid-block crossings. Christopher wants Montrose’s lanes to be narrower so the sidewalks can be widened and one lane to be just for buses. Jacob wants the 82 bus route that connects downtown to The Galleria via Westheimer to have a red bus-only lane.

Westheimer bus number 82 in the Westchase district.

Gail Delaughter / Houston Public Media

The 82 Westheimer bus in the Westchase district.

Left turn only: Virginia has a simple request to reduce speeds in West Dallas. She would like to see dedicated turn lanes, with a left-turn lane and one that prohibits right turns on red, to make it safer for her and others crossing the street there.

Reflections on 11th Street: More than one listener had thoughts about 11th Street in The Heights. Ann said the concrete bike curbs and medians should be removed and a center turn lane and narrower painted bike lanes in each direction should be created. Marian didn’t like the reduction in lanes and medians that were added there and decried the effect this has had on local business owners.

Heights Bike Lanes

Emmanuel Nunez

Bike lanes will be added to a stretch of 11th Street in Houston’s Heights neighborhood in 2023.

Elevated highways: A caller named Jonathan wondered if, instead of making the freeways wider and wider, we were thinking about building them up—that is, making double-decker highways. Marc, from Conroe, had a similar idea. He suggests building a single-lane elevated highway down the middle of Highway 1488 between Magnolia and I-45, with an access point between Old Conroe Road and Kuykendahl. The other end would merge with traffic between People’s Road and the interstate. It could have minimal tolls and could cut rush-hour and lunch-hour traffic in half.

Loop interchange by rail: A listener named James was thinking big. He’d like to completely replace 99/Grand Parkway with the Houston Infinity Rail, a high-speed train with stations in Cypress along 290, in Tomball, at Bush Airport, and other stops in each county it would pass through, with auxiliary rail and dedicated bus lanes from those stations to downtown, The Strand in Galveston, Katy Asian Town, The Woodlands, and elsewhere.

Aerial view of downtown Houston.

Gail Delaughter/Houston Public Media

Aerial view of downtown Houston.

No more highways in the city: Sam suggested demolishing “most of the freeways within the 610 loop (to) replace them with surface boulevards and/or reestablish the city grid before the freeways were built… In my opinion, running freeways through the center of a city is a terrible decision that will almost always create a bottleneck in the design of the highways.”

Making connections: A listener named JS wrote: “I’ve long wanted to see the 249 connect to I-45 or the 610 via a freeway or toll road. It connects to the 45 via a highway, but there are so many traffic lights that it’s not a route most people would choose. Making this connection could alleviate traffic on I-45 and the North Beltway, which get backed up during rush hour.”