William Semora, the Fort Bend County area engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation, said the $4.2 million project is being funded as part of TxDOT’s Road Zero initiative, which aims to stop traffic deaths on Texas roads by 2050.
The installation of a median along FM 1092 was recommended in a 2011 Houston-Galveston Area Council study, which found, in part, that raised medians would help reduce the crash rate and improve traffic flow on FM 1092.
“The department is geared to work with the community to do what we can to obtain both of our goals—community certification and also the highest level of safety that we can on this corridor,” Semora said. “The safety that we are going to achieve is by delineating access locations, we will effectively reduce collisions.”
The proposed median would span from Hwy. 59 to Hwy. 6, with openings at major intersections. The HGAC report said one issue with designing the project is balancing median openings with providing access to properties that do not have alternative access—including Palm Grove Drive at the entrance to the Quail Valley Thunderbird West Courtyard Homes subdivision and the Shell Gas Station near Cartwright Road.
The majority of people at the public meeting were residents of the Quail Valley Thunderbird West Courtyard Homes subdivision, the only entrance and exit for which is Palm Grove Drive. Residents said the intersection of Palm Grove Drive and FM 1092 is already congested and dangerous, as traffic backs up from the traffic signal at Plantation Settlement Lane to block their intersection.
“Safety has always been an issue coming out of the neighborhood, but what drives me is that you knew that road condition but did nothing about it,” resident Alfrida Gilbert said. “It takes me anywhere from 5-7 minutes to get out of the neighborhood, ... and then you become the target of hostile drivers.”
If medians on FM 1092 were installed as proposed, residents would no longer be able to make a left turn onto FM 1092 from Palm Grove Drive and would instead have to make a right turn, cross two lanes of traffic and do a U-turn at Plantation Settlement Lane, as several people in attendance explained. Furthermore, when returning to the neighborhood coming southbound, residents would have to do another U-turn at Township Lane.
“If you want there to be zero fatalities, why are you going to force us to go to intersections that already have more collisions at them? That seems counterproductive,” said Megan LaGrue, who uses the Palm Grove Drive intersection to get to her house.
LaGrue and other residents in attendance took issue with the 10-year-old traffic data from the HGAC report and said that more recent data from the Missouri City Police Department shows there have been fewer accidents along the corridor in recent years, including just one at the intersection of Palm Grove Drive in fiscal year 2019-20.
“Every accident is important, and we’d like to eliminate those,” Council Member Floyd Emery said during the public meeting. “But what we are seeing is that many of those accidents are created by left turns on yellow at an intersection [and] right turns at a stoplight, and when you look at those items, they represent over 30% of the accidents in 2019-20. The other accidents—it’s hard to tell whether a median would have precluded that accident.”
Council Member Anthony Maroulis called for TxDOT at least to delay the project, citing the increased hardships many businesses have experienced due to the ongoing effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on the local economy.
“Installing the median at this time will only harm businesses in a very fragile environment, and if those businesses are already on the cusp of closing, this will definitely close them down,” Maroulis said. “Our businesses today need relief, not additional barriers.”
Bob Schragel, owner of the Shell gas station at the corner of Cartwright Road and FM 1092, said that if the medians were installed as proposed, trucks bringing gasoline to his business would not be able to make a left turn into the lot and would be forced to try to do a U-turn or go through a nearby neighborhood.
“My biggest concern is safety, and that’s all I’ve been hearing today,” Schragel said. “At least twice a week, I have an 18-wheeler filled with at least 8,800 gallons of gasoline. I want to hear how he’s going to get that truck into my station.”
Semora said TxDOT would take a look at intersections of concerns raised during the meeting, including at Palm Grove Drive and the Shell station, for possible adjustments to the proposal. The project, which was initially slated to begin in April, has been delayed until at least June to allow for public input.
Residents can view the schematic for the project here.