Skip to comments.The Rebuilding of I-45: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Improve Houston
Posted on 07/29/2014 10:14:21 AM PDT by a fool in paradise
According to proposals on the table at the Texas Department of Transportation, the highway system around Downtown Houston may be subject to a significant transformation. This well may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city to reconnect neighborhoods long bifurcated by highway IH-45 while also improving traffic capacity of the highways. How to change and improve the highway system is of great debate. As the Department of Transportation follows through on its federally required processes to propose and examine alternatives to the expansion of IH-45, also called the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, its winnowing the options quickly. Now is the time for residents to learn and speak up.
On November 14 and 19, 2013, the Texas Department of Transportation held its third set of public meetings about the North Houston Highway Improvement Project. The stated purpose of the project, in the works for more than ten years, is to reduce traffic along IH-45 between Beltway 8 North and its intersections with Highways US-59 and SH-288 in Downtown Houston. It divides IH-45 into three segments: Beltway 8 to IH-610, IH-610 to IH-10, and IH-10 to IH-45s intersection with US-59 and SH-288, including the Pierce Elevated.
The expansion of IH-45 has been a concern for state, federal, and local agencies for several years not only because of current traffic congestion and high rate of accidents, but also expected area population growth, aging infrastructure, and unmet safety standards. As of an August 2013 study by the Texas A & M Transportation Institute, the section of IH-45 through Downtown is ranked one of the twelve most congested highways in the state, and it has significant traffic delays during both peak and off-peak times. (US-59 in that same Downtown loop is ranked 2nd.) The traffic is predicted to get worse. According to the Houston-Galveston Area Councils 2035 Regional Transportation Plan Update, between 2000 and 2035, the population of the Houston-Galveston region is expected to increase by 3 million people, or by 65 percent. Employment growth between 2000 and 2025 in segment three (IH-610 to Downtown) is expected to top 50 percent. In addition, IH-45 does not meet current highway safety standards, and is designated an emergency evacuation route — more emergency than evacuation, however, when gridlocked.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), along with 20 federal, state, and local agencies, including the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department, the Houston Downtown Management District, and the East Downtown Management District, have been assembled to weigh in on the transformation of IH-45 to accommodate Houstons incredible growth and the traffic that comes with it.
At the November meetings, which are part of the federally mandated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, representatives from TXDOT presented the top three alternatives for each segment of IH-45 selected from the six options presented in Public Meeting #2 held in October 2012, and solicited feedback on the alternatives evaluation screening process, i.e. how to choose from the three alternatives.
The alternatives for segments one and two involve different ways to widen IH-45, while the alternatives for segment three, in the heart of Downtown, are more radical. Alternative 10 proposes to widen the elevated portion of IH-45 from six to ten lanes, reducing the lane count of Pierce Street, and to add four elevated express lanes to IH-10. Alternative 11 reroutes IH-45 northbound and southbound lanes to the east along US-59, adding six elevated lanes behind the George R. Brown Convention Center as well as six elevated lanes to IH-10, with the Pierce Elevated removed and surface streets used for Downtown and inner-city access. Alternative 12 keeps four elevated southbound lanes, turning the rest of the Pierce Elevated into parkway, and adds four elevated northbound lanes each to both IH-10 and US-59.
Two of the three alternatives for segment three involve removing partially or fully the Pierce Elevated, which generally has slow speeds and divides Downtown from Fourth Ward and Midtown. Its removal could signal a fluid re-integration between Downtown and its immediate neighbors.
Given the experience of other cities that have decommissioned highways, real estate currently flanking the Pierce Elevated all the way to its connection with IH-10 would likely rise tremendously in value. The neighborhood immediately west of Downtown would also take a boost. Developers and businesses along the corridor would have ample reason to celebrate. Several government-owned properties would also rise in value, such as the Downtown post office, a 16-acre property at the corner of Bagby and Franklin, currently on the market, and the 18-acre courthouse, police, and jail complex on Riesner Street.
However, the alternatives also propose widening US-59 to the width of a football field along its north-south stretch behind the George R. Brown Convention Center to accommodate the realignment of IH-45. With new mass transit, the soccer stadium, more commercial enterprise, and its prime location near Downtown, the area of East Downtown is experiencing a renaissance. A massive elevated highway could negatively impact East Downtowns growth as well as serve as an ever-widening barrier between the two parts of Houston.
After the 2013 public meetings, area residents voiced their deep concern about the impact of a greatly expanded elevated highway merging US-59 and IH-45 on the surrounding neighborhoods. Because TXDOT is early in its planning and no budget has been set for this project, it can be especially responsive to community involvement and public comment. Receiving and responding to community feedback is part of the federally mandated NEPA process; now is the time when involvement from both residents and business can influence the direction of how Houstons Downtown highways are transformed.
Community feedback or not, the planning process for IH-45 is marching forward at the Texas Department of Transportation. It holds meetings about once a year to take comments from the citys residents and businesses. At Public Meeting #4, to be held in the fall of 2014, TXDOT will present the preferred alternative chosen from the three alternatives for each segment, as presented at the 2013 Public Meeting #3. To voice your concerns about or support for the reshaping and redevelopment of Houstons highway system, with the attendant impacts and benefits for our citys neighborhoods, please visit http://www.ih45northandmore.com/email.aspx.
Read Torie Ludwin’s previous article for OffCite from April 8, 2014, “Will the Urban Highway Reclamation Movement Come to Houston?”
Does the “Big Dig” come to mind when you see this?
Here is the top graphic from the article (I neglected to include in the above posting):
Renderings of existing and proposed sections of I-45 through Downtown. Source: TxDOT.
More surface grade highway. Houston floods. Often.
And as it currenly exists The "Pierce Elevated" has crossroads that go under it. Would they be turned into tunnels?
Then there was this quote:
Given the experience of other cities that have decommissioned highways, real estate currently flanking the Pierce Elevated all the way to its connection with IH-10 would likely rise tremendously in value. The neighborhood immediately west of Downtown would also take a boost. Developers and businesses along the corridor would have ample reason to celebrate.
Our crooked city is run by the property developers in the Downtown business partnership (and has been since at least the 1950s). Tearing down our interstate highway to appease them is not in the public interest.
Neither was building billions of dollars worth of stadiums to appease them.
Neither is handing them our downtown (central) post office or jail all so we can build ourselves NEW facilities and they get prime real estate for more entertainment districts (funded by "redevelopment zone" taxes) and high rent condos.
Boondoggle comes to mind. Like their fail-rail project.
Big Dig = Big Flooded Road.
Afterall, Allen’s Landing on the banks of Buffalo Bayou is only 6 feet above Sea Level.
There are now only two bridges across Spring Creek. Any plans to change that?
Rule number one: Build Highways to be above the flood levels from all previous Tropical Storms - - - DUH!
But think of the opportunities for property redevelopment and the contracts to rebuild the highways!
Never mind the 5-10 years of congestion it causes during the build out.
And with the current trends, expect more “toll lanes” on these highways. There is no room to put on the Piece Elevated.
Of course, they COULD go to double decker freeway systems...
Why all the hoopla?
Just ask the local Chamber of Commerce where they want the road.
That is the way they do it in DFW.
Two Level, - - - - ?
That has potential:
“Normal Drought traffic use Lower Level.”
“Use Upper Level only if the car in front of you is flooded out.”
Get that dingbat racist Sheila Jackson Lee out of office and Houston will improve immediately.
Never mind the 5-10 years of congestion it causes during the build out.”
What happens when a hurricane hits? Rita was a total disaster but was some better for Ike, although a lot of people didn’t evacuate for Ike because Rita was a false alarm for our area. We have several hundred thousand more people now than then and most of those people have not a clue as to what to do, whether to go or stay or how to prepare.
Corporate bigwigs need to get it through their heads that making everyone drive 2 hours per day round trip in order to be visible in a downtown skyscraper is costing their company BIG $.
Splitting up these ridiculous monolithic headquarters into smaller facilities located on the outskirts of the city or in the suburbs where rent is much lower, makes more sense. Especially in light of the technology available that makes meetings or other communications just as effective as face to face.
But this won’t happen until the current batch of small-minded dinosaurs leading corporate America die off. Yeah, this subject is very personal to me.
I was driving the insane, recently completed interchange on I-10 East at the 610 West this weekend. The (unmarked) eastbound feeder lane ramp onto I-10 plunges about 20 feet below the surface, passing beneath the existing 610 loop.
They did this despite decades of experience with these types of underpasses flooding. Sometimes motorists drown.
I think traffic engineers are just affirmative action employees with no college education whatsoever.
I had a surface road commute to downtown for job. 10 minute commute by car. 45-60 minute commute by bus (no transfer) longest trip by bus took over 2 hours.
Office I worked at had their own parking garage and by being an employee I could buy a pass to park there for ONLY $8 per day, I don’t recall if I had to buy it by the month).
Surface lots typically cost $5 (although sometimes rates would rise for the Convention Center) and one time my lot was closed (to the regulars) for convention business. I did $800 damage to the underside of my car leaving the surface lot that was next up the road.
Thing is, I now see that the sky is the limit for those parking lots during “events” (the same lots voters were assured would be affordable when baseball moved from South Main to downtown).
I saw lot pricing of $20-50 per car at the Paul McCartney show and hear that for Jay-Z/Beyonce this year, parking lots were charging $80-100 per car.
Those are the same lots used by downtown office workers.
I have no love of Houston’s corrupt downtown business practices.
And they are the ones who hand pick our mayors.
I’ve seen a lot more ramps in Houston that resemble “roller coasters” in the past 20 years of new construction than in all my years preceding that.
Agreed. I don’t get the lure of high-rise glass towers when 80% of your workforce lives 20+ miles away (and usually the same direction out within a 90-120 degree arc).
Of course, Harris County still spent their tax dollars of "public" works and highways like I-45 and I-10 are major interstates (not all of the traffic is local and drivers in the trucking industry shouldn't be punished because some wiener Democrat hates the suburbs).
TIme for me to start looking for another job where I’m not commuting to the Medical Center every day.
“Our crooked city is run by the property developers in the Downtown business partnership (and has been since at least the 1950s). Tearing down our interstate highway to appease them is not in the public interest......&....”Neither was building billions of dollars worth of stadiums to appease them.......&...”Neither is handing them our downtown (central) post office or jail all so we can build ourselves NEW facilities and they get prime real estate for more entertainment districts (funded by “redevelopment zone” taxes) and high rent condos.”
Maybe “Alternative X” should be, using the power of eminent domain for a very brief spell of one Saturday and one Sunday, ALL land owners in the downtown district would have all the land collected into a joint holding company with each owner allotted shares in proportion to their land’s market value at midnight on the Friday before, but held in escrow by the city, and then that holding company given full title to the stretches of highway around downtown Houston, incurring a debt to the city of Houston, held by 30-year bonds, and then that holding company “privatized” back to the original owners, in their new collective ownership and each property with a perpetual & transferable lease to each original owner. Then, they can do what they want, and raise their own money - go themselves into more debt - to pay for remodeling Houston’s highways for their benefit.
Fanciful yes, but you get my point.
Real estate investors get wealthier the more population density increases. Unfortunately a population density higher than a small town always results in majority Democrat voters. As the developers get rich, America turns into a third world socialist dystopia. To add insult to injury, the developers can re-finance their higher valued properties to get money out and they pay NO INCOME TAXES on that money. As long as they or their heirs don't cash out, they live 100% income tax free.
That is not the way to build a freeway!
You gotta bury it underground like in Boston.
It’s not wise to dig deep in Houston. Some things are better left buried!
I couldn’t find an article on the mystery object that was found downtown while they were digging below the roads, but this similar obstruction in Seattle will do (I think it was clear that the Houston one was manmade though)
The downtown cronies use “redevelopment” district classification to keep the tax dollars collected downtown in downtown infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile the voters in the outlying regions still have to pair for the construction of their downtown stadiums as well.
The rest of the city has long been neglected due the policies of Lanier, Brown, White, and Parker.
There might be graboids.
An old timer in Houston is somebody who remembers when the freeways were finished! (this was a common saying when I lived there- 25 years ago!).
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