The Texas Department of Transportation is nearing the end of its study of a stretch of Hwy. 3 that sees more crashes than the statewide average.
From 2014-16 there was an average of more than one crash a day on the 14-mile corridor between Brookglen Drive and the Harris/Galveston county line. An average of four crashes a month caused injuries, and six of them were fatal, according to TxDOT data.
Seeing the problem TxDOT decided in early 2017 to study the road and seek public input on ways to improve it, TxDOT Public Information Officer Deidrea George said.
Hwy. 3 is a four-lane road with two lanes in both directions. Most of the highway has a shared left-turn lane down the center, which is more dangerous than a raised median separating traffic, George said.
While some have opposed replacing shared turn lanes with medians, most residents agree with the idea. Medians make turning into businesses less convenient but improve safety, George said.
“Those left-turn lanes contribute to a lot of the crashes in that corridor as well as the lack of medians,” she said. “At the time [Hwy. 3] was built those medians were not warranted.”
Traffic congestion is another huge issue along the corridor. Hwy. 3 was built before the area’s population started booming, so the road can quickly become clogged with traffic, George said.
“The area functions as an alternate route for [Interstate] 45, and there is a lot of congestion in that area,” she said. “Traffic counts continue to rise.”
About 16,000-24,500 vehicles use the stretch of Hwy. 3 daily. In 2014, about 11,000-20,000 vehicles used it, according to TxDOT data.
People often think of widening roads to add lanes when coming up with ways to improve traffic congestion, but that is not the only solution. TxDOT is not at this time considering widening Hwy. 3, George said.
One of residents’ top suggestions is to improve the coordination between and reduce the delay of traffic signals. The corridor has 24 traffic signal-controlled intersections, 15 of which experience moderate to heavy traffic congestion, according to TxDOT data.
“Something like that can go a long way in improving mobility and reducing congestion if you have your signals aligned,” George said.
TxDOT is working on improvements to five intersections along Hwy. 3, including Edgebrook Drive, South Shaver Drive, Dixie Farm Road, Clear Lake City Boulevard and El Dorado Boulevard. Workers are adjusting turn lanes and improving and replacing traffic signals, according to Brenda Bustillos, chairwoman for the TxDOT steering committee for the project.
According to a TxDOT survey, residents also would like to see added sidewalks and bike paths and lanes along Hwy. 3. Bike lanes are planned for construction in 2019, Bustillos wrote in an email.
TxDOT expects to complete its final report of Hwy. 3 this fall. At an undetermined date TxDOT will use the study and the report to design and construct improvements. Construction would be broken down into segments, George said.
The preliminary cost estimate for short-term solutions such as adding raised medians, extending turn lanes and installing rumble strips is $8.74 million. Medium-term solutions such as replacing traffic signals, widening the bridge north of Clear Lake City Boulevard and adding sidewalks would cost an estimated $14.65 million, according to TxDOT data.
George clarified not every recommended solution will be implemented. The study allows TxDOT to gather feedback and come up with several possible solutions before determining what is best, she said.
“There are several different projects that can come out of this one access management study,” George said.