City Council Leader, County Commissioner disagree over Houston bike lane construction
HOUSTON - A Houston City Council member is pushing back against plans to construct a multi-million dollar bike lane in the Third Ward.
"There’s really been no study to indicate that bike lanes are even needed," said District D Council Member Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz.
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The project is part of a 2018 agreement between Harris County, the City of Houston, and Texas Southern University to improve the Third Ward. The approved funds were for flood prevention efforts, wider sidewalks, landscaping, and bike lanes along Blodgett Street.
"This is not a welcome project," said Arva Howard a resident in the Third Ward. "Plus, there was no transparency. You’re supposed to fix our streets to prevent flooding, but we didn’t pay for you to make it a bicycle lane. How does flooding correlate to decreasing the lanes to less than half of what they are today?"
Evans-Shabazz joined the Houston City Council after the project was approved. Recently, she has voiced her opposition to this specific bike lane plan promoted by Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. The two local leaders share constituents.
"The community had no opportunity to weigh in, as to where or how we thought they needed to be installed," said Evans-Shabazz.
Harris County Commissioner Ellis recently sent a letter to Evans-Shabazz saying that the county is open to exploring the option to safely pause construction for the bike lanes. He added that they could pause construction if the city agreed to pay $8 to $9 million to Harris County for the project. Ellis also accused Evans-Shabazz of flip-flopping her opinion regarding the project.
"Certainly, I did speak well of the project," said Evans-Shabazz. "That was basically because of the drainage and the landscaping. Also, the perceived opportunity that the community would have an opportunity to weigh in on these bike lanes [before final approval]."
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Some worry new bike lanes could worsen traffic along Blodgett Street. The bike lanes have decreased lanes for vehicles from four to two lanes.
"Why spend $12 million on less than one mile of public infrastructure?" said Howard.