Trey Guidry and Malcolm Dishongh are pleased with the street improvements on First Street in Humble except for one “small” thing – those newly-poured cement medians that prevent east- and west-bound drivers from turning left into their favorite businesses.
“I’m not negative about the improvements,” Guidry said. “I love what they did. It’s certainly improved the look of our neighborhood.
“We need the turning lanes. We don’t need the concrete medians,” he said.
Guidry is a State Farm insurance agent who offices in the 100 block of First Street in Humble. Dishongh recently moved his law office to the same building.
Guidry and Dishongh believe the concrete medians are creating more congestion along First Street. Prior to the medians, vehicles could turn left into a business. Now there are vehicle back-ups as vehicles slowly drive to designated U-turns to turn around to enter a business.
“Semi-trucks that come in from Highway 59 can’t turn left into the gas stations or other businesses,” said Dishongh. “They must drive all the way to Houston Avenue, turn left onto FM 1960, then come back down First Street.”
Both Guidry and Dishongh point to the much-more traveled 1960 Bypass with no cement medians.
“1960 Bypass has so much more traffic,” Guidry said, “seven lanes, red lights with no turning signals, a higher speed limit and no concrete medians. It just doesn’t make sense to instead put the concrete medians on First Street.”
In response, Danny Perez, DOT public information officer for the Houston district, said TxDOT “…has been requested by residents to look into improvements in and around Deerbrook Mall. We intend to conduct an access management study of FM 1960 from Interstate 45 to Humble’s eastern city limits.”
A widening project, Perez said, is in the engineering phase on FM 1960 from east of Humble to Lake Houston.
With no way to make left turns, Guidry and Dishongh cite the tremendous amount of traffic pulling into their parking lot, driving from lot to lot trying to get to where they want to do business or dine.
“Frankly, it’s not right that only one business along this part of First Street has a turning lane into their business,” Guidry said.
Guidry and Dishongh also are concerned about business depreciation and the closings they believe will result.
“The word on the street is that one business is already reporting a 50-percent decrease in customers because their customers simply cannot get to them or a U-turn is impossible or not worth it to the customer,” said Dishongh. “I was personally told that traffic decreased substantially for another business so that a landlord discussed eviction since the tenant could not afford to pay rent.”
Guidry was so troubled about the medians that he walked door to door from Bender Street to Jade Palace to talk with other concerned business owners, and he and Dishongh contacted local and regional officials including the City of Humble, State Rep. Dan Huberty, the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and The Tribune, as well as TxDOT.
Road improvements on First Street are the result of long-planned improvements from Lee Road to FM 1960. First Street in Humble is part of the original FM 1960 and is a state road under the jurisdiction of TxDOT.
The original project was proposed in 2011 when the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC), conducted the study at the request of TxDOT because of the high number of crashes in the corridor, according to Perez.
The project included widening FM 1960 from two lanes to undivided four lanes from Lee Road to U.S. 59 and from two lanes to divided four lanes from U.S. 59 to FM 1960 east of Humble.
The management plan states the purpose of the improvements, including First Street, was to reduce crashes, improve traffic flow, reduce motorist delay and address multimodal/land use context.
Both the City of Humble and Huberty’s office contacted TxDOT for a review.
“Designated turning lanes are terrific, but we don’t need the concrete medians,” said Guidry. “I saw a police car recently drive over the median during an emergency. This is the perfect time to jackhammer the concrete out of there.”
Dishongh added, “I have been a resident of Humble for over 20 years and First Street has never been a magnet for accidents.”
Perez responded, “Raised medians reduce motor vehicle crashes, decrease delay and provide a refuge for pedestrians crossing the street. Giving pedestrians the ability to cross one direction at a time improves safety, reducing motor vehicle crashes by 15 percent and decreasing delays by greater than 30 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration.”
Guidry and Dishongh, along with other business owners along First Street, said they were not aware of TxDOT’s plans.
“The project included an extensive public involvement process including two public meetings in 2011,” responded Perez. “A steering committee was formed … and two special meetings were held with … residents, business/chamber members and first responders.”
Meeting notices were sent, legal ads were placed and post cards were mailed to property owners, Perez said.
Perez said TxDOT is looking into business owners’ concerns and will address the community’s needs without compromising safety.
“Safety is TxDOT’s number one priority,” Perez said. “We understand that folks have concerns and we wish to address each concern as best as possible; however, managing access on a roadway can result in better traffic flow, fewer crashes and a better travel experience. We believe better mobility and safer access are good for business.”
Lake Houston Chamber President Jenna Armstrong has a suggestion for all local businesses and members of the community.
“Tap into your local chamber,” she said. “Transportation issues are a high priority for us. The local and state agencies usually come to us first to get business input. We dedicate at least one luncheon a year to this topic and transportation initiatives are made a discussion priority at our many BizCom meetings.”