Harris County Judge Ed Emmett promises to come up with a “consistent approach” to keep drivers from making the fatal mistake, or fatal choice, of driving into underpasses inundated by Houston floods.
“We’ve got to get this corrected and we have to correct it quickly,” Emmett said last week.
In an exclusive KHOU 11 News interview, he promised to work with city, county and state agencies to come up with something better than what is often not working effectively now.
"We're going to make sure people do not drive into these. We cannot allow another person to die in the same location where people have already died,” Emmett said.
Of the seven drivers who drowned in their cars during the floods last week, three drove into flooded underpasses, either by accident or choice, at the I-59/I-610 interchange. Emmett promised a review with the city of Houston, TxDOT and the Harris County Toll Road Authority for better solutions.
"I want to come up with the best technology possible to solve it,” Emmett said. “If it takes the legislature giving money to it then I'm willing to fight for that.”
Emmett wasn’t able to specify a timeframe for the suggested improvements.
But while suggesting the potential use of barricades that are automatically triggered by a pre-determined amount of rain, he also suggested to review with multiple agencies the idea of assigning specific deputies or officers to known flood-prone intersections to block traffic in person.
"To me, that's an absolute good use of resources,” Emmett said.
One of the drivers who drowned in a vehicle last week drove around physical barricades.
The City of Houston utilizes warning lights at 19 flood prone underpasses and eight more are planned to be installed by the end of the year.
Viewers complained about one such warning light on Monday.
The eastbound warning light at Allen Parkway and Studemont was still flashing red, warning drivers to turn around, even though the intersection has been water free for days and traffic was moving at an above 40 mph clip.
Houston Public Works employees responded and turned off the warning light 30 minutes after a KHOU 11 report.