Announcing the Swamplot Award for Special Achievement in Traffic

Yesterday we introduced the first 2 nominating categories in this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. Nominations will remain open until midnight Sunday, December 9, for both awards: Favorite Houston Design Cliché and Best Demolition.

Today, there are 2 more award categories to introduce. And they’re both new to the Swampies. The first of these we’re calling the Swamplot Award for Special Achievement in Traffic.

Traffic means popularity. Sure, we all like to complain about it when it gets in our way, but is traffic always such a bad thing? Is there anyone or anything that might stand to gain from it? And if a neighborhood, or a new development, or some sort of construction project were to deserve this sort of award, would it be for causing traffic, for lessening it, or for something else entirely? You tell us: What, in the Houston of 2012, deserves to be recognized for its unique relationship with traffic?

As usual, the Swampies are open to the sharp and clever formulations of readers. If you use your nomination to give this category a twist, sell your vision!

More complete instructions covering the nominating process can be found on this page. In the meantime, drive right on ahead to the comments section below to add your nomination. One at a time, please. If it gets too crowded down there, there’s an alternate route: Send your suggestions directly to Swamplot HQ, via our email inbox.

35 Comment

  • “Death by Middle Lane” – otherwise known as West Alabama between the Spur and Shepherd.

  • The 610/290/10 interchange, which will be a massive cluster of elevated concrete when complete.

  • Entrance-exit ramps along the new I-10 feeders between Shepherd and Yale…the exits and entrances are so close to each other that motorist conflict is pretty much guaranteed, providing a “who’s more macho?” game of chicken/demolition derby experience for anyone using that particular stretch of concrete to enter or exit the freeway.

  • Shepherd from Washington to I-10; throw in a train for good measure.

  • I nominate the congestion inducing construction of frontage roads along I-10 between Studewood and Washington. For years, this area managed to get around just fine without freeway frontage roads, and to avoid the car dealerships, furniture stores, topless bars, and fast food restaurants that clutter so many of our other freeways. But thanks for stimulus money, TXDot found this shovel ready project just languishing on the back burner and took the federal funds our governor otherwise loves to hate. And after 3 years of construction, it is still not finished, we have the Shepherd and Durham bridges reduced from 4 to 2 lanes, a crazy exit/on ramp situation for westbound Shepherd exit, an extra traffic signal on Yale, and removal of trees that once lined that section of freeway. This is an “improvement” in search of a problem.

  • Any attempt to turn left off of Shepherd between 59 and W. Gray. Find another way, people!

  • How about the no heavy traffic on the Yale Street Bridge of Death ?

  • How about the Occupy Bissonnet event put on by the 1%ers protesting the Ashby Highrise? During rush hour, they parked their high dollar SUV’s bumper to bumper in every single street parking slot from Shepherd almost to Montrose with intention of causing a traffic jam on Bissonenet.

    They stood on the sidewalk’s with signs reading, “If you think this is bad, just wait” as cars whizzed right by.

    The only problem is that it didn’t actually cause a traffic jam because even at 5:30 PM on a weekday, there isn’t much traffic on Bissonnet.

    I drove right through it at nearly the posted limit and hardly touched my brakes once. I even doubled back just to make sure the result was the same in the other direction. Same result.

  • How about the postponement/death of the university and uptown rail lines. You think traffic is bad now just wait. Idk why people think traffic will improve when nothing is being done to improve it.

  • How about an award for those who think that mass transit will improve traffic? You know the old truism that you can never improve road traffic by building more lanes, because more drivers will just fill them right up? Well, it’s true about ALL kinds of transit. Put in a train, and people will fill it up, NEW people, not the ones who abandoned their cars. Anecdote: when the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1880-whatever, it was predicted the East River ferries would quickly go out of business. Guess what: they continued operating through the 1940’s before finally shutting down. Also, in places where they have oodles of mass transit, like London or NYC, the traffic is as bad as it can possibly be. Why?

  • @Chef well atleast it would give the new people another option. Right now the only option they have is the bus and a car.

  • I nominate any moron with an orange cone who can block a lane and park on a major thoroughfare to clip greenery, install holiday decor, make a delivery and generate a traffic jam for hundreds of folks at once. Look at Westheimer, Kirby and W. Alabama for these darlings.

  • Well, since you asked… The Washington/Westcott traffic round-about! Who decided that concrete PAVERS were the best surface for car tires moving at an angle? Every time I go through that interchange I wonder, due to the surface-of-the-moon ruts and rills, if my truck will actually be able to make it to the Washinton exit. Dress it up all you want with cool steel sculptures, red moss boulders, native plants, and a deconsecrated Spec’s, it’s still an astoundingly inappropriate paving choice.

  • How about those special Toll Tag Lanes on the HOV lanes where you’re expected to zip into a special lane at 70 mph in order to pay the toll and then hope that the person that was going 71 mph right behind you and at half a car’s length away is then going to let you back in? Really?

  • Ooh! I second “Death by Middle Lane” – Studewood between 11th and White Oak is another fine example.

  • @sugarpie – I’m sure the paving choice at the circle was intention, in order to slow people down so that they actually stay in their lane and pay attention to what’s going on. I’ve ridden through it on my motorcycle – which is a little treacherous – with no fear of falling over, so I’m sure you can manage in your car. Sometimes the right choice is pavement that wakes the driver up from their daydreaming, phone call, etc.

    As for death by middle lane – I’m not sure what’s so challenging about that. Turn lanes, including turn lanes whose function changes at different times of day, have been around forever; the main problem is stupid drivers, which we seem to have in excess here.

  • My nomination: privatized traffic cops. Throughout the Galleria hour at rush hour, off duty cops hired by office buildings stop traffic so people can pull out of lots and garages, causing huge backups through multiple intersections on the main roads. Why is this even allowed? These are public streets, and you can have a boatload of traffic engineers figuring out how to time lights, etc. to keep traffic moving, but if anybody can hire someone to go stop everyone for their tenants’ convenience, the situation will be hopeless. If traffic cops are required the city needs to put them there & their purpose needs to be to keep traffic moving, not bring it to a stop.

  • Adding on to the 610/290/10 interchange… there’s always 610 between the Ella and TC Jester exits where if all else fails/your patience with waiting for the back-up from the Ella light wears thin, you can take one of four un-paved dirt “exits” and pray that you don’t massively damage your car in the process…

  • Ditto on the toll lanes… but my bomination extends only to the times when they are closed… You know… on the weekends… and during holidays… the times inner-loopers might actually use the lanes.

  • Nomination… Not bomination. It is an abomination nomination, though.

  • “Boomtown crush.” With the recent growth in Oak Forest/Garden Oaks/Shepherd Park/Candlelight – Ella Boulevard between 43rd and 610 has become impassable at certain times of the day. Hard to tell whether it is the increase in people, or the increase in fast food establishments to feed those people, but still… Ever headed North on Ella at 34th? Fagetaboutit. You WILL be held up by the seemingly permanent supply of stopped cars turning into Shipley’s Donuts – completely blocking the right lane. Any other roads in town experiencing these kinds of growing pains?

  • so many great options to choose from, but i’d have to go with the HOT lanes…especially the ones that help cause further traffic on the freeways where motorists have to quickly cut over. no other road or structure in Houston is capable of causing as much waste and inefficienty as these beasts.

    i see these going in across the US now and being hailed as great revenue generaters but they’ll always be a true texan idea to me: a celebration of waste, inefficiency and inequality on our roads and representative of a complete lack of political competency. surely someone must have felt happy the day they bartered this thing out and that no politician had to actually do some work to get people to compromise and come up with a reasonable plan for future revenue generation.

    the alabama middle lane is always a humorous one though, and vastly much more so now that the richmond light rail (that NO, would not have eliminated any vehicular traffic but would certainly have increased wait times and pollution of the already existing traffic) has been placed in purgatory indefinitely. the entire reason they chose not to put it back to normal 8yrs ago turns out to have been all for nothing. and of course the always horrendous mythical bissonnet traffic…or mythically horrendous, whichever.

  • I nominate the Yale St. bridge, not as an excuse to throw a dart at Walmart or the developer, but to put into relief the way we (city, state and fed) approach our public infrastructe. The Yale St. bridge was not on any list for improvement/replacement until community groups found out that it was not rated for 18 wheelers. It then turned out that the bridge was in far worse shape than expected, could only be rated for passenger vehicles and would have to be repaired in order to keep it open long enough to for emergency funding to become available to replace the bridge in 2016. What this incident exposed was the approach to public infrastructure is to wait until roads/bridges, etc. have degraded to the point that they are at risk of no longer being functional. We have so underfunded our public infrastructure that we are in a constant state of putting fingers in the cracks to keep the dike from bursting. Thus, any talk about putting in massive above ground/under ground highways with a giant loop around downtown, flyways through Hermann park, grand parkways, I-69 and making 290 as wide as it is long is all for naught when exiting the highway will just put you on a street that is falling apart or in a massive traffic jam due to construction work to patch up a failing roadway.

  • This is a suburban problem, I know, but what about the crazy-low speed limits in unincorporated Harris and northern Brazoria counties? They’re all over Shadow Creek Ranch, Silverlake, even 288. Five, often ten mph below what traffic is reasonably going and quite aggressively enforced by HPD, Pearland, BC Sheriff’s dept, and even DPS b/w’s occasionally. It’s quite obvious when you cross into the Pearland city limits and the speed limit on the same major road jumps by ten mph. Sure seems to be making somebody a lot of money. Not from me, I’ve never gotten a ticket.

  • Trader Joe’s

  • Gosh, I’d nominate the most classic of Houston’s driving boondoggles: 610 at the Galleria!
    After spending hundreds of millions of our dollars to help Galleria merchants, it’s still impassible for much of the day. Leads from 59 are STILL one lane each – this after TWO rebuilds in 20 years. This is the perfect example of more doesn’t mean better – now to be repeated on 290 and I45N! It must be great to have that much political clout to so wantonly spend taxpayers dollars – and tell them it’s good for them!

  • @sugarpie – I’m sure the paving choice at the circle was intention, in order to slow people down so that they actually stay in their lane and pay attention to what’s going on. I’ve ridden through it on my motorcycle – which is a little treacherous – with no fear of falling over, so I’m sure you can manage in your car. Sometimes the right choice is pavement that wakes the driver up from their daydreaming, phone call, etc.

    John; I’m guessing your interpretation was what the designers hoped for. But the constant sideways, angular pressure from car tires on the surface has shifted all the pavers. It wasn’t like that when initially installed.

    The City of Houston repair crews were out there recently and patched the valleys and ruts. Now there are asphalt Band-Aids on the inside lane (at least the section from Westcott to Washington). My comment about my truck flying off into the adjacent plantings was a bit of silly hyperbole. I still think it was a bad choice of materials, or at least the installation of the pavers wasn’t as well thought out as it might have been. You’re a real trouper for going through that circle on a motorcycle, though! I wouldn’t have the nerve.

  • @sugarpie – I don’t do it often – usually it’s an “oh crap, forgot about that!” moment. Happily a motorcycle really wants to stay upright unless you make that impossible.

  • Amen, Old School. Infrastructure is everything.

  • I second the Trader Joe’s parking lot on Shephard. Heading north after work is enough to turn even the most mellow hippy. Why must someone turn left into a parking lot that is clearly full?

  • I also nominate the Yale Street “Bridge of Death”. At the current weight limits, many large SUVs are too heavy, but that doesn’t stop them. When I dare to go over the “Bridge of Death” in my little car, I see not only the huge SUVs but many other heavy trucks and even armored cars. Nothing will put Houston on the national news like a bridge collapse!

  • This is tough…there are so many! But, it is btwn the 610/290 redu mess and the Yale St. bridge. The 610/290 project has eliminated an enormous amount of taxable property so I hope it ends up helping.

  • @Vanessa, a single SUV, or even an armored car or heavy truck is not going to make the bridge collapse. That’s fear mongering from know nothings. The limit is based on conservative estimates, and includes some safety factors. If you see an overweight vehicle on the bridge, call the number on the vehicle and complain. Moaning about it here is fairly pointless.

  • After re-reading the call for nominations, I realize that we’ve overlooked a real obvious contender: the Houston Zoo “Free Tuesdays”. This monthly event caused gridlock and parking armageddon for everyone on the north end of the Med Center until the powers that be agreed to scale it back to afternoons.

    Were you from out of town and desperately trying to navigate the maze of streets? Your morning just got more complicated by the addition of hordes of families wandering the streets trying to find their way to the zoo.

    If you had contract parking in a garage and you got there a bit later than usual? Too bad, so sad, the TMC sold your spot to a zoo-goer. Go to a remote lot and take the shuttle, you slacker!

    If you were driving an ambulance and needed to get your patient to Ben Taub or Memorial Hermann???? Wait through the gridlock with the rest of us, sucker!

  • I’ll nominate the crap fest that is the 59 to 610 north. I don’t commute or even drive that often, but the times I do and find myself in the area I want to punch myself in the face for choosing to take that interchange.
    It’s like Lord of the Flyss when people bunched up trying to not let anyone in… vs. people trying to squeeze in at the last moment.