Out of Control: In Houston’s traffic carnage, design makes a difference

Houston alone has 16,000 miles of streets, and not all of them can be redesigned in a generation.

A lot of those roadways carry more traffic than ever imagined, with the only solution often adding lanes but not fundamentally changing the street. Gessner, long a major street in northwest Houston, has been widened or repaired numerous times, including widening in the past decade north of Interstate 10.

It also has developed a reputation as a dangerous place to drive. From 2014 to 2018, two people were killed and 10 were injured seriously there.

Yet in 2015, residents revolted when Houston officials proposed to widen Gessner from Richmond to Buffalo Bayou to at least three lanes in each direction — similar to the design north of the freeway — and to add medians in many places to limit turns.

The residents said intersections where drivers dart out without a traffic light were necessary so they could conveniently get in and out of residential areas south of Memorial City Mall near Briar Forest. Others balked at the widening altogether, saying officials should route traffic somewhere else.

Often, any change is met with resistance.