Members of the Houston Public Works Department provided an update on the project, known as the 11th Street Bikeway, to the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood No. 15 at its quarterly meeting Nov. 16.
The 11th Street Bikeway includes roadway improvements on 1.5 miles of 11th Street between Shepherd Drive and Michaux Street in Houston as well as on Michaux from 11th Street to just north of Stude Park, said Lauren Grove, a senior staff analyst with the Houston Planning and Development Department.
The project is intended to address traffic safety concerns and reduce speeding while also allowing pedestrian and bike paths to connect schools, parks and other points of interest, Grove said.
The plan calls for reducing the number of car lanes from four to two between Shepherd and Heights Boulevard with a concrete median and from four lanes to three between Heights and Michaux, including a center turn lane.
Based on business owner feedback, the median between Shepherd and Heights would open up to allow for left turns at Lawrence and Rutland streets, Grove said, with a left-turn option remaining at Yale Street at well.
A bike lane would also run in each direction throughout the project's limits. A protected bike lane would be in place between Shepherd Drive and Studewood Street with breaks at certain points to accommodate buses.
However, the bike lane between Studewood and Michaux is being designed without a buffer, Grove said. Although traffic volumes are lower along that portion of 11th, Grove said the design team is working with the community on alternative concepts to protect cyclists there.
Work at the intersection of Shepherd and 11th is being tackled in coordination with the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority, which has its own project underway on Shepherd, Grove said.
Plans for 11th were based in part on an intersection safety study released in 2017 by the city of Houston, the Federal Highway Administration, the Texas Department of Transportation, Bike Houston, Link Houston and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.
Among its findings, the study found the intersection of 11th and Nicholson streets to be of particular concern, Grove said.
"This is largely attributed to having four undivided lanes, which encourages dangerous [decisions]," she said.
A pedestrian refuge island and pedestrian and bike crosswalk markings are slated for the Nicholson Street intersection, Grove said.
Some residents who spoke at the super neighborhood meeting expressed concerns about cars cutting through neighborhood streets to avoid increased traffic caused by the lane reduction.
Gus Kopriva, a business owner on 11th, said he thought a lane reduction was not a good idea because of the street's heavy commercial use and a slew of new businesses opening over the past several months.
"Every day I see huge trucks making deliveries to the restaurants and the hardware stores and the other businesses, and they stop in the lane," he said at the meeting. "In order to get around, people are going to be using the turn lane as a passing lane. I hope it does increase safety, but I think it will end up being more unsafe."
Grove said those concerns were being taken into account during the design process. She said she did not expect traffic to increase significantly, citing data from the FHA showing lane reduction works when traffic counts are at 25,000 cars per day or fewer. The portion of 11th in question carries around 14,500 vehicles per day, she said.
Based on project studies, traffic would only reach lane capacity for one 15-minute interval between 5-6 p.m. under the proposed plan, Grove said.
Additionally, officials said monitoring the effect of the project on side streets is part of a "post-project to-do list" and that such side effects have not been seen on similar lane reduction projects.
Other comments brought up at the meeting related to business access and whether protections such as those being added to Nicholson Street could also be added at streets leading to Harvard Elementary School, which project officials said they would look into.
The project is about 60% of the way through the design phase, Grove said. The design is slated to be finished in the first quarter of 2022 with construction starting soon after. Residents can learn more about the project and how to submit feedback here.