The cut-throughs in the medians lining Highway 288, allowing drivers to make left turns onto intersecting county roads, served their purpose at a time when both stretches of road traveled through rural, open spaces.
That stopped being the case quite a few years ago, and state transportation officials have made the right decision to trade driver inconvenience for additional safety.
The $3.1 million Texas Department of Transportation project will remove the at-grade crossings at CRs 45, 48 South, 51, 57, 60 and 63, according to a fact sheet. It will add northbound and southbound median U-turns at CR 48 South, 51, 60 and 63, a northbound median U-turn lane at CR 57 and a southbound median U-turn lane at CR 45, the document states.
Removing the crossings became necessary for two reasons. One is the clear increase in traffic volume on Highway 288 in the northern part of the county. That heavy traffic, which in the not-too-distant past primarily consisted of commuters heading to and from work in Houston, now runs at a steady stream in both directions beyond rush hours.
With more north-south traffic on the roads, it is more difficult for drivers waiting on the connecting county roads to merge safely into the flow of vehicles. Those wanting to cross Highway 288 onto those connecting roads have to run a gauntlet of speeding cars and trucks, praying they can clear the two lanes without being T-boned.
The second reason for removing the crossovers is the reckless behavior of so many drivers on Highway 288. Dangerous speeds, tailgating and unexpected lane changes are the norms, making any effort to cross over the lanes of approaching traffic a life-or-death gamble. Eliminating the median cut-throughs won’t get rid of that problem, but by adding acceleration lanes from the side roads will give drivers a better chance of merging in a safe manner.
In the long term, overpasses are planned that will eliminate the problem altogether. That will take years and tens of millions of dollars, and the proposed solution hopefully proves to be an effective temporary answer.