Bridge

Highlands businesses have been impacted as business has slowed down and traffic has filled the streets after two barges broke loose and impacted I-10 bridge columns three weeks ago.

Although West Meadows subdivision residents are grateful for a new road to help get in their own neighborhood, they say more should be done. 

The subdivision’s residents have suffered through major traffic issues since there is only one road in and out of a neighborhood that sits near Love’s Truck Stop on I-10. These traffic problems were compounded when a barge struck the San Jacinto River bridge on Interstate-10 in  February. The residents are going through that nightmare again after several barges struck the I-10 bridge during Tropical Storm Imelda. 

Frida Villalobos, a spokeswoman with Harris County Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s office, said workers are in the process of placing asphalt to build out Ellis School Road from Hazelnut Lane to Thompson Road.

This project will provide residents with additional access into the subdivision from Hazelnut Lane. 

“It is moving along, and they are working on it as we speak,” Villalobos said. 

Villalobos said the $500,000 road project, which includes a new two-lane asphalt roadway with open ditch drainage, should be completed within two weeks’ time. She added the latest bridge mishap had no impact on the road construction. 

Dr. Bryan Corbin, a professor at San Jacinto College South and West Meadows resident, said the new road will help, but there are still many problems left unresolved. 

“The problem still is if you get off on I-10, you can spend an hour just on the exit just trying to make a left,” Corbin said. “You can get off where the 4 Corners BBQ is, make a left, go down to Jones Road and make a right, and then you can cut through the Love’s gas station. But the problem is sometimes police are out there, and they have been known to give out tickets for cutting through at Love’s. You cannot win.”

Lori Brown, another West Meadows resident, said the lack of traffic control at Thompson Road is a major headache.

“They are pushing people to get on an entrance ramp,” Brown said. “So, you have five approaches where people are trying to get into one lane to go onto the freeway. It is blocking the feeder and preventing us from getting into the neighborhood in a timely manner.”

Brown said the new road might lead to more problems than it solves. 

“What that is going to do, in my opinion, is lead to people to start cutting through that back road thinking they get to the feeder and get on the freeway until they find out differently,” Brown said. “We didn’t realize the magnitude of the number of people on Thompson Road trying to get on that entrance, it is the last entrance to I-10 before the bridge. It is the only way people from Highlands can get on. Thompson Road needs to be traffic controlled with some kind of police presence providing traffic control.”

Brown said residents had requested traffic control at Thompson Road to no avail. 

“It is going to take someone getting hurt, like that girl who died in February because we couldn’t get an emergency response into the neighborhood,” she said. 

In February, a 16-year-old girl died following a seizure at her residence in the West Meadows subdivision and paramedics not being able to arrive in time to save the teenager’s life because of traffic congestion in the area.

Nicole Ochoa, who also lives in the neighborhood, said the traffic issue is tiring. 

“The city and county don’t seem to care too much about traffic control at the Thompson intersection,” Ochoa said. “People are driving around each other, going down the wrong way from Jones Road. People are also coming from the Ellis School Road, cutting people off to get to Love’s and go through there. Last week, I was stuck at the Thompson exit off-ramp for 45 minutes with my two-year-old screaming. She was hungry after I got off work and picked her up from daycare. I work in Montrose, and she’s off Uvalde. What’s now even more of a struggle is doing any errands after work. I cannot even leave to go to the store, or anywhere, because I will be in traffic for hours. We just need better traffic control.”

Corbin said some residents have considered moving away over the traffic.

“ A plumber came out and said he used to live here. He said he left because of the traffic. And this was before the bridge was hit,” Corbin said. 

Corbin said it is not just when a barge hits the bridge that traffic issues arise.

“It can be just an accident on I-10,” he said. “The problem is you never know if you’ll be held hostage or not. But at least with the back roads, it gives us a little peace of mind that we can get in and out easier, but it doesn’t help exiting the freeway. If they could help with police, that would be a huge step.”

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