A federal grant is paving the way for a notoriously deadly stretch of Zarzamora Street to receive flashing, mid-block crossings designed to address some of the street’s long-standing safety issues.

The city identified sections of Zarzamora Street years ago as “hot spots” for serious pedestrian injuries, according to its 2017 Vision Zero report.

This month, its plan to address the issue, by installing eight pedestrian crossings on a 12-mile stretch of road running between Cincinnati Avenue and Southwest Military Drive, got a boost from the federal government, which plans to chip in $4.4 million for the improvements.

Zarzamora is among 10 streets the city has identified as particularly dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. The city currently budgets $1 million per year for Vision Zero projects, which was used to cover the required 20% local match on the Zarzamora Street project.

“We’re a big city with big needs,” said Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda, who chairs the Transportation and Mobility Committee that heard a presentation on the grant Tuesday. “Zarzamora Street, specifically, has needed these upgrades for generations.”

City staff estimate the crossings will cut auto-pedestrian accidents in half on a road where 13 people died and 43 others were seriously injured between 2016 and 2020, according to numbers provided by the city.

Federal funding for street and road repairs is typically funneled through the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which has been at odds with San Antonio’s plans to increase walkability in other parts of the city.

This particular grant program aims to put money directly into the hands of local governments, however, for projects aimed at improving safety in areas with high rates of death and injury. It gives preference to projects that include environmental and quality of living components, as well as ones that improve equity, according to city staff.

Zarzamora Street’s mid-block crossings will include median islands with landscaping features designed to slow down traffic. The pedestrian beacons give people crossing the street the ability to stop traffic by pressing a button. One such crossing currently exists on Frio Street near the UTSA Downtown Campus.

The city will install eight midblock median islands on a 12-mile stretch of road running between Cincinnati Avenue and Southwest Military Drive.
The city will install eight mid-block median islands, as seen in this example, on a 12-mile stretch of road running between Cincinnati Avenue and Southwest Military Drive. Credit: Courtesy / Texas Department of Transportation

Though it’s the first grant the city has ever received directly from the Department of Transportation, staff is eager to replicate a project that’s already received a nod from the Biden Administration.

“Our goal is to show that we’ve completed [the project] in under under two years, and then continue to apply for these [grants],” said City of San Antonio Transportation Director Tomika Monterville.

Cabello Havrda suggested increasing that budget next year to maximize potential for other projects through the Safe Streets and Roads for All program, which was created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.