43rd

Three Frank Black Middle School students stand at the intersection of West 43rd Street and Chantilly Lane as a string of vehicles travel east on 43rd. 

Ruth Mendez knew there was a significant safety issue on West 43rd Street that needed to be addressed.

She just did not know if the fix she hoped for would come to fruition.

Mendez, a Frank Black Middle School parent and member of its parent-teacher organization, is among the school stakeholders who have advocated for increased traffic-calming measures on the north side of the Oak Forest campus, which is bordered by 43rd. She said the four-lane thoroughfare has been a danger to students who walk or ride bicycles to and from the school, both because of the prevalence of speeding and the lack of a traffic signal, stop sign or crossing guard on that part of 43rd.

Mendez said last December that she hoped a hybrid pedestrian beacon, which is a flashing yellow light that turns red when activated by a pedestrian who wants to cross the street, could be installed. But around that same time, she said she was told there wasn’t enough traffic in the area to warrant such a measure.

Eight months later, however, Houston Public Works has completed a traffic study at the request of concerned residents like Mendez and a department spokesperson said it’s been determined that a pedestrian signal will be installed at the intersection of 43rd and Curtin Street.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the outcome,” Mendez said. “I just hope it comes soon.”

Houston Public Works spokesperson Erin Jones said in an email Tuesday that a construction date has not been set for the pedestrian signal, which will aim to make crossing the street safer for students of Frank Black and Oak Forest Elementary, which is immediately to the east. Jones said engineers with the city’s Transportation & Drainage Operations department consulted the principals at each Houston ISD campus, and they agreed to focus on an intersection midway between them, which is 43rd and Curtin.

Jones said the city’s study revealed an average daily traffic count of more than 10,000 vehicles along that stretch of 43rd, with an average speed of 41 mph. The posted speed limit is 35 mph.

“The Houston Public Works traffic study in Oak Forest looked at data related to traffic volume along 43rd Street, the speed limit and actual speed of drivers, the locations of existing traffic signals, stop signs, sidewalks and marked crosswalks,” Jones said. “… The study found the need for a new midblock crosswalk with a pedestrian signal along 43rd and Curtin.”

The HISD press office denied a request to interview the principals at the Frank Black and Oak Forest campuses as well as a school district administrator familiar with the issue.

Tim Weltin, a Candlelight Oaks resident and longtime Frank Black employee who has had children attend both Frank Black and Oak Forest, echoed Mendez’s sentiment that the upcoming installation of the pedestrian beacon is a “positive movement.”

He said the future setup figures to make for a safer crossing of 43rd than it would at the intersection of 43rd and Chantilly Lane on the northwest edge of the campus, because at that crossing there are left-turn lanes on 43rd. There is an existing median and no turn lanes at the intersection of 43rd and Curtin, which is two blocks to the east.

Still, Weltin expressed cautious optimism.

“I’d be curious to see what studies show about the effectiveness of a pedestrian signal versus a stop light,” he said. “I think people in general have gotten in such poor traffic habits with regard to speed and ignoring it on these thoroughfares. If you don’t actually stop them at red lights, I’m not sure it’ll be effective.”

There is a stop light a few blocks to the east of 43rd and Curtin, at the intersection of 43rd and Oak Forest Drive on the northeast corner of the Oak Forest Elementary campus. Students of both Oak Forest and Frank Black utilize that crossing to access the residential streets to the north, although it is an out-of-the-way route for some of those students.

A then-eighth grader at Frank Black said in December that taking that route added about 10 minutes each way to her walk to and from campus. But she said she did so because it was much safer than crossing 43rd at one of the intersections to the west, which do not have any traffic signals or stop signs to slow down vehicles.

“Creating a safe crossing on 43rd will make a big difference for the children and families of Frank Black Middle School and Oak Forest Elementary who walk and bike to school," said Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin, whose office helped facilitate community members' request for traffic-calming measures. "I’m so glad we were able to lift up the voices of concerned families and work with Public Works to keep moving this safety effort forward.”

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