Jan 30, 2024 - News

$8 million to go toward safer walks to school in Montrose

A lime green sign marks where people cross the street in Montrose

Kids cross the road along West Clay Street in Montrose. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

An $8 million transportation project aiming to make it safer for kids to walk to school in Montrose finally received funding after years of advocacy from parents.

Why it matters: It's a major victory for Houston's safe streets advocates, who have long lambasted the city and local governments for Houston's lack of pedestrian infrastructure.

The big picture: The project is one of dozens greenlit by the Houston-Galveston Area Council's Transportation Policy Council in December, injecting $336 million in federal money into the Houston area for various transportation proposals.

  • The Montrose project will replace existing sidewalks with wider paths along several streets surrounding Wharton Dual Language Academy, the Gregory-Lincoln Education Center and Carnegie Vanguard High School.
  • There will also be a signalized pedestrian crossing at Stanford Street and West Gray Street and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps at crosswalks throughout the project.

Catch up quick: Mehdi Rais, a community organizer and parent at Wharton Dual Language Academy, has lobbied the city, the Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone and just about anyone who would listen to enhance the streets surrounding the school.

  • "Kids can't safely make it to school," Rais told Axios in October 2022. "A large part of that is because of the traffic and lack of infrastructure and enforcement to support kids being able to walk around this neighborhood."

Driving the news: In 2023, the Transportation Policy Council found itself with a $450 million surplus that would otherwise be returned to the federal government if it wasn't spent.

  • For months, H-GAC staff worked with several Houston-area local government organizations to identify 60 projects to spend the money on with a stipulation that they could begin construction within two years — before the funds "lapse" in 2025 and must be turned back over to the federal government.
  • Montrose's Safe Routes to School was one of those projects.

What they're saying: "It doesn't feel real," Rais tells Axios. "It actually takes a lot of work to get the government to bend toward the needs of residents."

Zoom out: Several other transportation projects received funding, including a crucial connection of the Waugh Street bike lane from West Dallas Street to Allen Parkway and a shared-use path along West 11th Street from Nashua Street to Ella Boulevard.

  • Here's the full list of projects.

What's next: Design for the Montrose project will begin within 90 days, according to Montrose TIRZ spokesperson Connor Stokes.

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