SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio has partnered with several organizations to come up with a plan to redesign streets to make roads safer and public transit faster.
Hassan Pourali's mechanic business is at the corner of South Zarzamora Street and New Laredo Highway. He said crashes are frequent, and it's frustrating when people cut through his business to get to the other side.
"They cross, pass here and they try to get to the other side. And some people there, and sometimes the accident happens right here," Pourali said, pointing out problem areas.
The city of San Antonio is already looking into the issue at this intersection.
"What we've seen is vehicles make this southbound turn and turn in here very quickly and, if someone is walking, there is a potential conflict. So we wanted to look at opportunities potentially to close that or alter it," said Art Reinhardt, interim deputy director of Transportation & Capital Improvements.
The city has partnered with VIA Metropolitan Transit and the National Association of City Transportation Officials, also known as NACTO. As part of the partnership, they are looking at how to change a stretch of South Zarzamora Street.
"We have federal funding allocated for this Zarzamora corridor. It's about a 7-mile corridor stretching from Fredericksburg (Road) on the North Side, all the way down the Military (Drive) on the South Side," Reinhardt said.
Reinhardt said TCI has $7 million allocated for the project. He said $3.5 million comes from federal funding, $3 million from the city and $500,000 from VIA.
Reinhardt said another area the city is looking at is South Zarzamora Street and Military Drive.
"We know, for the traffic volume that's out there, we don't necessarily need all those lanes. We wanted to look at opportunities to repurpose some of those, either to provide shorter pedestrian crossing across the roadway or also to provide a bus-only lane," Reinhardt said.
Zarzamora has the Primo bus service, and there are several stops along the way.
"So we would narrow the roadway, and that would provide refuge for the buses to stop," Reinhardt said.
Earlier this year, San Antonio was named a winning city in the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge and, with that, it gets resources and technical support. That's where NACTO comes in.
"We're so lucky to have NACTO involved because they have really done this all around the country," said John Bailey, climate advisor for Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. "Oftentimes, that means pedestrian islands. So, imagine you're on the street. The other sidewalk's way on the other side. You got 20 seconds to get the other side. You can provide refuge islands for pedestrians that can't quite make it the whole way but have a safe place to stop in the middle. So now that means narrowing lanes so that traffic goes a little bit slower."
Bailey said that, in addition to focusing on safety for people walking and biking, they are also looking at making public transit faster.
"Sometimes, it's expanding the sidewalk where the bus kind of stops so that it's easier to kind of get onto the bus. Sometimes it's even things like landscaping. That's kind of a small-scale thing, but, actually, the presence of trees and street trees can, again, help to reduce traffic over time and make it a more pedestrian-safe place to kind of be," Bailey said.
Pourali said he looks forward to the changes.
"It's a really dangerous section right here. A lot of accidents happen so if, somehow, they could prevent that, that would be great," Pourali said.