Balcones Heights seeks to improve pedestrian safety

Concerns about ‘near misses,’ lack of access prompt push for funding

BALCONES HEIGHTS – The Crossroads area in Balcones Heights is home to shopping centers, medical offices and a major transit hub. But officials say accessing those services can be difficult, even dangerous, if you’re a pedestrian.

“We’re very concerned about people who are on Fredericksburg Road or at the transit center and they’re trying to make their way back and forth between the two,” said Janet Thelen, Community Development Director for Balcones Heights. “And there’s really not enough sidewalks. There’s not easy access for them. And the infrastructure is getting old, needs updating.”

Thelen is leading a push to revitalize the pedestrian infrastructure on Crossroads Boulevard but said the small community can’t fund the effort on its own. The city hopes to widen and make sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. More crosswalks, signage and artistic elements could also be added.

“So that it’s not only a safety, but there’s also a welcoming feeling and the esthetic feeling so that we’re improving the community in a variety of ways, and that helps us economically as well,” Thelen said.

She’s spoken with key stakeholders in the area, like VIA Metropolitan Transit, Methodist Hospital Texsan and the owners of the shopping centers to gauge interest in partnerships. She also presented some of the issue during a meeting of the Transportation Police Board of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Improvements can’t come soon enough for those who need to walk in the area or rely on transit.

“I mean, it’s a lot of traffic,” said Anthony Santoyo, who works in the area. “There’s really not a safe way to cross here … and it’s just some of these drivers just don’t care sometimes. Everyone’s in a rush.”

The area has seen a lot of activity with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at Wonderland of the Americas.

“We’ve had tens of thousands of people come through there. And we want to know that if they wanted to take the bus, that they’ve got an easy way to get onto that property because there’s a lot of activity in there and we want you to be able to get there safely,” Thelen said.

The Texas Department of Transportation is already improving sidewalks along Fredericksburg Road as part of an ongoing project. There’s no timetable on when the improvements in Balcones Heights will begin.

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About the Author

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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