The Texas Department of Transportation’s project to add a raised median along FM 1488 is underway as part of a larger access management project between Mostyn Drive in Magnolia and I-45.

As of Dec. 1, work on the project was 26% complete, according to the latest available media update from TxDOT. The project began in July.

The project, which has been in the works since 2019, aims to reduce crashes, improve mobility, and support existing and future development, TxDOT Public Information Officer Leo Flores said in an email.

However, local businesses said they are concerned a raised median could limit access to their businesses.

“It’s a catch-22 situation,” said Sandy Barton, the former president of the Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce who left the chamber as of a Dec. 11 announcement. “But I believe [medians] do make a difference in keeping people alive. And I think that’s an important element for us all to consider, and we have ways to work around any impediments that they might pose.”

Two-minute impact

The project began in July after its start was delayed due to the same contractor—ISI Contracting Inc.—working on a similar raised median project along Hwy. 105, Flores said. While construction has yet to begin on the medians, TxDOT is working on truck loons, which add pavement to help trucks make U-turns, he said.

The project is estimated to cost $10.23 million, according to a December update from TxDOT.

Alongside the median, TxDOT proposes five new traffic signals along FM 1488, according to maps of the proposed improvements.

Rob Eissler—executive director of the Westwood Magnolia Parkway Improvement District, which collects sales tax near the FM 2978 and FM 1488 junction to fund infrastructure and public safety projects—said he believes the median is needed.

“The growth of the area has increased the traffic density in our area, which has increased the dangers of travel on FM 1488, especially when there is a center lane that goes both ways,” he said in an email. “This is often referred to as a ‘suicide lane,’ as many accidents and near-accidents occur due to the lack of clear-cut directional control.”

According to TxDOT data, the number of vehicles on FM 1488 just west of Westwood Square East Drive jumped 31.5% from 27,133 in 2013 to 35,683 in 2022.

Mike Kelton, who owns Treehouse Cafe on FM 1488 and Hunger Crush Cafe on Hwy. 105, said he believes adding a raised median will make traffic congestion worse by lessening the amount of space available for drivers to turn left, causing traffic to back up in the main lanes.

Zooming in

The medians are set to vary in width from 1 feet to 14 feet, and the project will be completed from west to east, Flores said.

Barton said businesses are concerned about limited access with a raised median.

“There’s always a concern that someone will not stop because they can’t get across the street easily, or they would have to do a U-turn in order to get to that business,” she said. “We hope that TxDOT will work diligently with the business owners along that corridor to ensure that cut-throughs are safe and appropriate and do not negatively hinder access to businesses along that stretch.”

As the project seeks to improve safety, TxDOT data shows total crashes within the project limits have increased from 170 crashes in 2013 to 326 crashes in 2023 as of Nov. 20.

“It just is a constant nightmare—people dart out in, you know, across traffic from anywhere in between intersections,” said Jeanine Weber, a resident of Woodland Landings off FM 1488.
What they're saying
  • “I just went through this process on [Hwy.] 105, and it was a mess. ... I do believe it’s going to be a hassle. I do believe people are going to drive up the road and go somewhere else, so I’m not a fan of [the median]," Kelton said.
  • “You may have to go down and then make a turn and come back around, but ... I would easily trade inconvenience for safety; that is not even an issue," Weber said.
Stay tuned

Construction of the raised median follows two other projects to improve FM 1488 in Magnolia that are ongoing.

TxDOT’s project to widen FM 1488 to four lanes with a continuous left turn lane from west of FM 149 to FM 1774 is anticipated to wrap up in the first quarter of 2025, and a similar widening project from FM 1774 to the Waller County line near Joseph Road just west of Magnolia is anticipated to wrap up in the second quarter of 2024, according to the December media update.

Construction of the raised median is anticipated to wrap up in the fourth quarter of 2025, according to the December media update from TxDOT.

Eissler said WMPID has set aside funding to landscape and beautify the median within the district’s boundaries. TxDOT is funding the installation of the median and the first year of maintenance, and will turn over maintenance of the median to WMPID after the first year, he said.

During construction of the median, drivers can expect one lane in either direction to close between 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Flores said.

“We have so many business owners that love to work with one another and support one another in the community. We have a very special community that way,” Barton said. “And I would hope that that would continue through what is likely going to be a somewhat stressful period for some business owners.”