In partnership with county and state government, the City of Houston has won a $9.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve 40 flood-prone traffic intersections with new technology that alerts drivers when high water is present.
“These improvements will save lives,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We have seen automobiles become deadly traps time and time again in Houston during flooding events, including during Hurricane Harvey. Thanks to these grant funds, we will be able to help people avoid these dangerous situations.”
City Council Member Larry Green, who died Tuesday, advocated for the grant application to the Department of Transportation on a recent trip to Washington, D.C., on behalf of the City. The proposal includes a location in District K, which Green represented, at Alt U.S. 90 and Beltway 8.
The federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program is a discretionary grant for innovative transportation proposals. The program is highly competitive. DOT selects awardees from hundreds of applicants, who can include states, territories, counties, other cities, port authorities, transit agencies and other jurisdictions.
The City’s proposal, in collaboration with the Houston District of the Texas Department of Transportation and Harris County, targets 40 sites in the region where high water on roadways poses a threat to drivers and passengers. The sites will be equipped with red light warnings backup power generators and batteries. Guided wave sensors will monitor for high water.
Currently, most of the yellow light signals at the sites are powered with batteries charged with solar panels. Yellow lights can be confused by drivers for less immediately dangerous warnings, such as entering a school zone. Extended cloudy conditions can cause the systems to lose power.
The new sensors will be connected to partner web sites (Harris County Flood Control District’s warning system and the Transtar Traffic Map) allowing high water warnings to automatically be added to online traffic maps. Connecting the sensors to these partner sites will mean that drivers will be able map commuting routes to avoid the sites.
“Not only will these improvements protect drivers immediately before crossing one of these intersections, they will aid drivers throughout the Houston region, making commutes faster and safer,” Turner said.
The grant will provide nearly two thirds of the $14.4 million required to make the improvements. The City will contribute $3.27 million, TxDOT $1.39 million and Harris County $380,000.
The proposal drew support from Sen. John Cornyn due to its regional impact on safety and transportation. The City’s application also received support letters from Reps. Gene Green, John Culberson, Ted Poe and Pete Olson, as well as Houston METRO and the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
“I’d like to thank Sen. Cornyn, our Congressional delegation and all our partners for their support,” Turner said. “This was truly a team effort to make drivers in Houston safer.”
A map of locations to be improved can be viewed here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ifSmctFGHGiaMdhaPluQ7DXiXiI&usp=sharing.