Residents want West Alabama bike lanes restored

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Ken Fountain reports for the Examiner newspapers that people who live near West Alabama are wondering why the street has not been restored to its previous (non-contraflow lane) configuration, now that the Spur 527 construction that forced the changes is complete:

Nearly eight months after the completion of the reconstruction of Spur 527 from the Southwest Freeway into downtown, some neighbors along West Alabama Street wonder why the once primarily residential street has not been returned to its original configuration.

Two residents who were involved in the original controversy and the city councilwoman whose district the street runs through said it was their understanding that officials promised the street would be restored after the spur’s completion.


Both [Neil] McKenna and Ray Jones, the founder of the West Alabama Quality of Life Coalition, say they heard officials say during a hearing in the federal proceeding prior to the spur reconstruction project that once it was completed, West Alabama would be restored to its original configuration.

District D Councilwoman Ada Edwards, who had only recently taken office when the spur project began, said she doesn’t specifically recall who may have said that the street would be returned to its original status, but that was her understanding of what would happen.

However, Wes Johnson, spokesman for the city’s Public Works Department, said that commitment was never made.

I lived in that neighborhood when these changes were implemented and followed the issue closely. I recall most officials involved with the project refusing to give clear answers about what would happen after the Spur was finished, and I certainly don’t recall any official promising that West Alabama would be switched back. A search of the Chronicle‘s archives does not turn up any such promise. One Chronicle report from October 2004 does indicate that the problem was still on the minds of residents:

The re-striping and reversible lane on West Alabama – designed to carry traffic during the reconstruction of U.S. 59 and Spur 527 – were cited as major problems, Brewster said.

Bicyclists who live in the neighborhoods near West Alabama want assurances that the bike lanes on that street will be preserved once the freeway construction is finished, Brewster said.

If those people were still asking for commitments about restoring the street back then, it seems unlikely that public officials had previously committed to such changes in public.

It also seems unlikely that the City of Houston is going to switch the lanes back to the earlier configuration, because that will require spending on a matter that is nowhere to be found on Mayor White’s list of spending priorities. However, here’s wishing Councilmember Ada Edwards luck in getting funding for the reconfiguration, if that’s what her constituents want. Maybe if she proposes some revenue-generating red-light cameras at affected intersections, it will improve her chances at winning over the mayor!


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