COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The city of College Station has seen a boom in growth and development in the last decade which means more cars on the roadways and in some areas, more vehicle crashes.
City engineers said they’re aware of the problems and complaints, especially along the FM 2818 or Harvey Mitchell corridor, and they're working with the Texas Department of Transportation to find a solution.
Chris Fullerton has lived in College Station for a few years, and said he’s never seen traffic so bad on the Harvey Mitchell Parkway.
“I’ve been driving this road now for about a year or year and a half every morning, and it’s gotten substantially worse,” said Fullerton.
He got so fed up with the daily delays that he decided to take action, snapping a picture of the bumper to bumper traffic and posting it on Facebook.
“I shot a picture of the people in front of me stopped and photo-shopped this as the background of a Texas A&M parking permit and called it Harvey Mitchell parking lot way. Then I posted it on Facebook,” explained Fullerton.
It started out as a joke, but the post spread across social media.
“It got like 2,000 likes in 20 to 30 hours, so obviously I wasn’t the only one feeling the frustration there,” said Fullerton.
He also contacted the city, but they already had the traffic problems on their radar.
James Robertson is a traffic engineer for College Station and monitors the area’s roadways from the city’s Traffic Control Center.
Although the traffic congestion on Harvey Mitchell is a headache for many, Robertson said safety comes first.
“It’s not always about mobility for us. A lot of times we’re looking at safety before we can even begin to look at mobility, and while we’re doing safety, we’ll try to implement some mobility if we can,” said Robertson.
According to TxDOT data, the Harvey Mitchell corridor going southbound from Villa Maria to SH 6 has seen almost 1,000 crashes in the last seven years.
Robertson said another thing he noticed were the high number of crashes at the intersection of Harvey Mitchell Parkway and Holleman Drive.
TxDOT data reports that in 2010, the intersection saw just two crashes.
Speeding forward to 2016, there were 24 crashes. So far this year, the intersection has seen 21 crashes, including the one in June that took the life of Texas A&M student Caroline Killian.
“About a year ago, we were going through crash statistics, and noticed that we had an increase in left turn crashes,” explained Robertson.
The intersection had a flashing yellow arrow that allowed drivers an unprotected turn onto Holleman Drive.
However, Robertson said that research found drivers were not judging how fast the cars were coming at them before making the turn.
“One of the goals when we’re doing signal timing is to keep cars moving,” said Robertson.
The plan included installing protected only green left turn lights.
In addition, many of the signals along Harvey Mitchell have been retimed to increase the green time, meaning more vehicles can get through the intersection instead of causing the traffic nightmares that Fullerton referred to as a parking lot.
Fullerton said he’s glad the city and TxDOT tried to find a solution, but says he’s still seeing back-ups on the roadway.
“It’s still a disaster. It’s still a whole lot of people traveling this road, and you’ll still on a regular basis find yourself coming to a stop in an area where you shouldn’t be stopping,” said Fullerton.
However, according to Robertson, since they’ve begun the re-timing project, drive times have been faster, and they’ll keep monitoring the roadways to do what they can to alleviate the traffic congestion.
Robertson also said that the city hopes to see more changes coming soon.
They’re working with TxDOT on a plan to widen the road and upgrade certain intersections along the Harvey Mitchell corridor.
TxDOT will be holding a public meeting next month so residents can learn more about the project and offer feedback.
The meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 14 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm at the Larry J. Ringer Library located at 1818 Harvey Mitchell Parkway South in College Station.
You can learn more about the project by visiting TxDOT’s Projects and Studies website.