Recent studies from Rice University's Kinder Institute have highlighted pedestrian infrastructure issues in Houston's Gulfton neighborhood like poor sidewalks and high crash and fatality rates. These studies, along with other research from the Mayor's office and community organizations, have prompted city officials to act.
On April 17, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a partnership with Together for Safer Roads, a roadway safety advocacy group, to invest $150,000 to study and solicit ways to make Gulfton's 2,000-foot stretch of Hillcroft Street safer. Furthermore, the Houston Public Works Department has committed $500,000 from the city's capital improvement program to go towards safety improvement projects on four blocks of Hillcroft from Bellaire Boulevard north to High Star Drive.
Kinder Institute researcher and author of several Gulfton studies Dian Nostikasari is thrilled to hear changes are coming to the neighborhood, which had 332 crashes along the four-block segment of Hillcroft from 2014 to 2018, according to statistics compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation.
"I think it’s very exciting to see things happening in Gulfton," Nostikasari said. "It’s a result of a lot of collaborations between different organizations and residents — and I'm glad that the Kinder Institute study was referenced as helpful in highlighting the issues residents experienced daily."
The TSR study will focus on three key areas to catalyze road safety improvements in Gulfton, the most densely populated community in Texas. The key areas include community engagement, measurment of results and community improvement funds provided by the City of Houston to build out the improvements.
The community engagement focus will include a STEM education program with an emphasis on transportation-related issues. Through the program, students and community leaders will identify primary safety issues in the Gulfton area's infrastructure and work with the city of Houston towards solutions. To measure reesults, TSR will work with the Kinder Institute and Brisk Synergies to assess the impact of the project through a before-and-after analysis of near-misses and collisions. Through this analysis, TSR hopes it will give engineers the insights to develop improvements and lessons for future projects.
“The safety of our communities continues to be a top priority,” said Mayor Turner in a press release. “I am thrilled to be working with Together for Safer Roads, its member companies and community partners to ensure that we make Houston a safe place for all the community members that call this great city home.”
While the partnership is a positive step toward much-needed improvements Nostikasari hopes the projects will focus on the actual people living in Gulfton. "I think the next step would be to continue to be involved in the process so that the implementation of these projects can be as inclusive as possible and be attentive to the specific needs of the Gulfton community," Nostikasari said.