TxDOT held a second public meeting Oct. 24 in The Woodlands to gather public input on proposed improvements outlined in the access management study, which aims to identify low-cost, high-impact improvements for reducing crashes and improving mobility throughout the 14-mile stretch of FM 1488, TxDOT Public Information Officer Emily Black said in an email.
“The study goals for this project are to reduce crashes, [improve] mobility, enhance multimodal connectivity, support current and future demand, and support economic growth,” Black said in an email.
Proposed corridor improvements include installing raised medians, retiming and coordinating traffic signals, improving intersection turn lanes, adding bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, installing advanced street name signs, and reconfiguring the I-45 interchange.
“Enhancing the FM 1488 corridor potentially improves mobility for vehicles traversing from Magnolia in Montgomery County to I-45 and beyond to [the] city of Houston to the south, which [provides] employment opportunities, education and medical facilities for people within the region,” said Alan Clark, the director of transportation planning for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, a metropolitan planning organization, in an email.
TxDOT crash data shows 326 vehicle crashes occurred between FM 149 and I-45 in 2018, having doubled from 2010.
The high number of crashes paired with upcoming development along the FM 1488 corridor prompted TxDOT to begin an access management study from FM 149 to I-45 this January, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. An access management study looks at how to reduce crashes and improve mobility by limiting conflict points and planning how vehicles move through a corridor, according to TxDOT information.
“With there being only two east-west corridors in our county, our growth has triggered an immediate need for increased capacity,” said Bruce Berger, chief of staff for Montgomery County Precinct 2. “The TxDOT study addressed the current and future growth along the FM 1488 corridor by expanding lanes and controlling traffic safety concerns.”
Berger said Precinct 2 has been involved in TxDOT’s planning from the FM 1488 study’s onset and that county projects along the corridor were designed to be minimally impacted by any future state construction.
Short-range proposed improvements total $19.53 million and include adding a raised median throughout the study area, realigning the I-45 interchange and adding traffic lights, and performing studies to see if a traffic signal is justified at Mill Creek and Superior roads; Manor, Sendera and Lago drives; Thousand Oaks Boulevard; and I-45, according to TxDOT information. Black said TxDOT has received $7 million in safety funds to install raised medians on FM 1488.
Additional short-range improvements include adding dual left-turn lanes at Hwy. 242, FM 2978, Old Conroe Road, Kuykendahl Road, Carriage Hills Boulevard and I-45, according to meeting information.
“Access management treatments like a raised median will alter the way people move through a corridor and will change the way people interact with adjacent properties,” Black said. “But given the safety concerns in the corridor and the current and future development and associated traffic growth, we are compelled to make the roadway user’s travel experience a better and safer one.”
Black said while short-range improvements reside within the state’s right of way and could be done quickly, medium-range improvements—such as widening FM 1488 to six lanes between I-45 and FM 2978—would require coordination with other entities. Long-range improvements—such as widening FM 1488 to six lanes between FM 2978 and Mill Creek Road—would require further study. Medium- and long-range improvements total more than $60 million, according to TxDOT information.TxDOT anticipates short-range improvements will decrease total crashes by 28% and reduce travel time by 39%, providing an estimated savings of $3.3 million per year from safety improvements and $54.1 million per year from mobility improvements. Additionally, these mobility improvements would save each roadway user 32 hours of time per year, according to TxDOT information presented during the Oct. 24 meeting.
“The taxpayers will realize the safety and mobility savings in terms of reduced crashes and more time doing the things they want to be doing instead of sitting in traffic,” Black said.