An ambitious project to enhance safety along the Hillcroft corridor is a game-changer for the southwest Houston community that is home to one of the most diverse populations in the region.
Construction is under way on “A New Vision for Hillcroft Avenue” project that will bring wider sidewalks, shared-use bikeways, new traffic signals for safer pedestrian access and a hike and bike trail on Westward Street.
In April, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined City Council Members Edward Pollard and Mike Knox, leaders of Together for Safer Roads (TSR) — a coalition that includes national corporations such as Anheuser-Busch — and community leaders for the groundbreaking of the three-year, $3.5 million project.
“The Hillcroft Street redesign project is the opportunity to build a more walkable and livable community,” said Sandra Rodriguez, president of Gulfton Super Neighborhood Council. “Our neighborhood is known as Ellis Island, where many newcomers arrive to start anew for a better life. This project will provide our families the quality of life they deserve.”
The City of Houston-led project culminated from extensive meetings and input from residents of the communities surrounding the busy Hillcroft corridor, non-profit Connect Community, Houston Public Works and the Southwest Management District.
A safety assessment defined several key areas of concern that included a high crash rate, high vehicular speeds, high rates of transit users and pedestrians, and a lack of safe and visible crossings.
“Mobility and safety are so important, and we need to make sure that families and people heading to school or work can do so safely without fear that they’re doing to get run over by a car,” said Alice Lee, executive director of the Southwest Management District.
Hillcroft Avenue is the eastern border of much of the district.
District officials are reaching out to area ethnic communities to keep them informed about the project, Lee said.
“Education is very important, and reaching out to them in their native languages is crucial, because there are so many people from the Arab-American community, the Nigerian community, the Hispanic community and from Central America,” she said. “The message has to be in their native language.”
The project is divided into three segments – Hillcroft between Gulfton and Westward; Westward between Hillcroft and Gulfton; and High Star between Rookin and Hillcroft.
In another plus for the community, plans call for construction of a multi-use Connect South Apartments project where residents – many of them newly arrived refugees – will sew personal protective equipment and other items, said Annie Trinh, deputy director of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #20, which serves southwest Houston.
“They can work from home while their kids are doing remote learning from home,” she said of the project at Hillcroft and High Star. “Creating these small jobs is a way to help them to put food on the table and help them to sustain themselves.”
The new vision for Hillcroft project is also aligned with Houston’s Vision Zero program that focuses on road safety “by prioritizing the lives of people who live, work, and travel through Gulfton every day over vehicle speed,” Houston’s chief transportation planner, David Fields. “This is important all throughout the city, but especially important in Gulfton, where 40 percent of residents walk, bike and ride transit.”