02/27/17 5:00pm

TXDOT TO PIERCE ELEVATED: YOUR YEARS ARE NUMBERED, PROBABLY pierce-street-45-downtownPending a vote next month by the Texas Transportation Committee, some early-stage projects connected to TxDOT’s plan to reroute I-45 and the whole downtown freeway exchange system could be getting started a few years sooner than TxDOT officials initially thought they would, Dug Begley writes in the Chronicle. (Those early stages include the reworking of the bottleneck on northbound US-59 where Spur 527 now peels off 2 of the freeway’s lanes just before SH 288 merges into the mix.) The first few projects “are incremental compared to the overall plan,” writes Begley, but “officials say [the projects] are important and send the clear message: The I-45 freeway is relocating and the elevated portion along Pierce will be abandoned and maybe demolished within the next dozen years. . . .Work on revamping the freeway intersections is slated for late 2020 or early 2021.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Pierce Elevated: Russell Hancock

01/11/17 1:30pm

Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr., 77081

Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr., 77081The view this week around Westpark Dr. at the West Loop includes both the old lattice towers currently holding CenterPoint’s electrical transmission lines and the taller, skinnier single pole models that will be taking over the gig. A reader captured some side-by-side portraits of the old towers and their replacements, which CenterPoint is deploying to raise the lines out of the way of TxDOT’s proposed future edits to the 610-59 interchange tangle. The cherry picker above is shown tethered to one of the new towers in the easement just west of 610; the top shot shows a pole up on the east side of the freeway between the Loop Central office midrises and the Danny Jackson Family Bark Park (which closed down last summer so CenterPoint could work on the land the county had been using as the park’s parking lot).

Here’s a ground-level shot at the base of an old-and-new tower pair just outside the dog park, with some Houston Garden Center inventory in the background for scale:

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Bark Park Sparks
08/04/16 4:30pm

THE ODDS ON A PIERCE ELEVATED COMEDOWN Map of Proposed I-45 Rerouting, Downtown HoustonWriting in the latest issue of Texas Architect magazine — which is now debuting a redone website with a new web address and a new all-articles-are-now free policy — Ben Koush surveys the prospects for the raised section of I-45 now dividing Midtown from Downtown: “While there have been some plans floated around to convert the decommissioned section of the Pierce Elevated into Houston’s version of the Highline, most people I spoke with didn’t think that was going to happen, simply because TxDOT needs the money it could get from selling that right of way to private developers. Some still hold out hope that at least some of the land or maybe even a small section of the elevated roadway could be made into a public green space.” [Texas Architect; previously on SwamplotPlan of “currently approved scheme” for I-45 rerouting around downtown, showing possible green space: SWA Group

06/09/16 5:15pm

B TEAM WANTS TO SEND THE GRAND PARKWAY WHERE THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO GO Proposed Grand Parkway Segment BJuly 11th is the last day to make on-the-record comments about the route the Grand Parkway planners want to take from 288 to I-45 (known as Segment B of the 170-mile outer-outer loop). The finalized study documents published last week mention that proposed right-of-way runs across about 55 acres of wetlands — though that number isn’t precise: the document also mentions that the study authors couldn’t get permission to enter properties along 70 percent of the route, so the group had to use aerial photos to estimate. TxDOT’s desired route appears to hook in with SH288 at the intersection of CR 60 and follow the Brunner Ditch and South Texas Water Company canals southwest most of the way to SH35; from there it would swing back northeast just past Alvin, then eastward to hit I-45 where FM 646 does. [Previously on Swamplot]

03/18/16 4:30pm

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DECIDE TO REDO THAT DOWNTOWN FREEWAY PLAN IN YOUR SPARE TIME Purple City Freeway Plan Map captureTory Gattis reports in an update to his weekly column that TxDOT is looking over the alternative Downtown freeway plan put forth by Houston-based blog Purple City last week — to see if it can pull any ideas from it. The report, created by a semi-anonymous Houston-based engineer, includes detailed schematics, along with contextualized critiques of TxDOT’s most recently publicized version of plans to rework the interchanges of I-10, I-45, and 59 around Downtown. The Purple City plan appears to have a lot to offer: It would keep the Pierce Elevated as managed express lanes, while exploring options to make its street level pedestrian- and development-friendly. The alternative plan would require less right-of-way acquisition than TxDOT’s and eliminate left-hand exits. There are also bits about developing a new bus rapid transit line between Bellaire and UH, adding a a parallel bikeway network, and expanding the Downtown street grid. The 13-page report is available here; there’s also a scaled schematic of the entire plan. [Houston Strategies; Purple City; previously on Swamplot] Aerial schematic of (rotated) Downtown freeway alternative proposal: Purple City

01/15/16 10:15am

2016 Houston Marathon Closures

For a few early hours this Sunday, the Southwest Freeway will be the only conduit into or out of the box of land framed by Kirby Dr., Montrose Blvd., Bissonnet St. and W. Gray St. (give or take a traffic peninsula leading up to Allen Pkwy., which will also be closed for much of the morning).

The Houston Marathon will launch from 4 corrals leading to Congress Ave. at San Jacinto St., and loop through the city along the route outlined in black above. The Half Marathon route (outlined in yellow) will pant alongside until just before mile 8, when it will skive off north back toward the shared finish line at Discovery Green.

A larger version of the map is show in 2 parts below, complete with start and end times (in red and green respectively) of each mile marker’s street closure:

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The Runaround
06/25/15 1:30pm

YOUR UPGRADE FROM SHEPHERD DR. TO THE NORTH FWY. WILL BE MUCH SMOOTHER STARTING TODAY New Shepherd I-45 Connector Ramp, Acres Homes, HoustonToday at noon TxDOT opened the brand new connector ramp pictured here, which has been under construction since December 2013. It links northbound traffic at the northern end of Shepherd Dr. to northbound I-45. Wasn’t there a way to get from Shepherd to I-45 already? Yes, but it brought cars into the freeway’s left lane. The new flyover crosses over the freeway to bring drivers onto I-45’s right lane; it hops over the Little York, Victory Blvd., and Veterans Memorial intersections on the way. A separate connector from I-45 south to Shepherd is scheduled to open later this summer. [TxDOT] Photo: TxDOT

06/09/15 11:30am

SEWAGE NOW FLOWING PROPERLY UNDER GULF FWY. AGAIN Repaired Sewer Line Under Gulf Fwy. at Brays Bayou, East End, HoustonThat pipe break spotted underneath an I-45 South overpass leaking what appeared to be raw sewage onto a concrete path adjacent to Brays Bayou last week has now been repaired — or at least covered with a new sleeve. A photo of the fix also shows flood-remnant bouquets still intact along the pipe’s length at the bayou crossing south of Idylwood and just east of Telephone Rd. Photo: Allyn West

06/04/15 5:00pm

Leaking Pipe Under Gulf Fwy. at Brays Bayou, Sylvan Dell, East End, Houston

There’s a busted pipe hanging under the Gulf Fwy. overpass as it crosses Brays Bayou, just east of Telephone Rd. and south of Idylwood in the East End. The pics shown here were taken late yesterday afternoon, though some sort of liquid had been seen dripping from the break at various points over the weekend.

Grassy remnants of last week’s high water on Brays Bayou can still be seen hanging from various points along the pipe’s length:

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Leftovers
05/27/15 3:15pm

Flooded Cars on I-45 North at Patton St., Near Northside, Houston, May 26, 2015

If you’re compiling a list of best photo spots for during or after another one of Houston’s every-dozen-years-or-so never-seen-anything-like-it flooding events, you’ll probably want to make room on it for the stretch of I-45 North between the N. Main St. and Patton St. exits. Back in 2001, images of cars and trucks floating along an insta-lake in this same spot made national news. And yesterday, pix of the automotive flotilla pictured above found their way to Facebook feeds and front pages around the globe.

But the low spot just north of Downtown wedged between Brooke Smith and the Near Northside was also a tough place to be when the water started rising, reports the Chronicle‘s Dane Schiller. Drivers found an early morning traffic jam in the rain changed nature quickly: “A surge was coming at them, squeezed by high barrier walls into the confines of the interstate. In less than 15 minutes, there was nothing to do but abandon ship.

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05/01/15 11:15am

If you were dazzled by the wide swaths of concrete laneage and complicated color-coded spaghetti interchange entanglements in the TxDOT renderings released last week — but had trouble comprehending the massive scale of the proposed reroute of I-45 around Downtown — you’ll want to try this second go at it. The state transportation agency has now produced a video version of its freeway-rewrapping proposal, complete with tiny little animated cars and trucks moving along 3-D representations of those new wide surfaces. It’s so mesmerizing, many viewers may not even notice what happened to the Pierce Elevated.

Video: TxDOT, via Houston Chronicle

North Freeway Downtown Rewrap
04/08/15 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A TWIST IN THE HIGHWAY WOULD MAKE Moebius Strip Freeway“Pretty sure inside the Loop/outside the Loop won’t matter once TXDOT completes the planned half twist there at the 610/59 interchange. Cars will then be able to drive on the top and bottom of the Möbius 610 Loop, which should greatly reduce congestion.” [Memebag, commenting on Houston Chronicle Building Goes on Sale Tomorrow, the Chronicle Reports] Illustration: Lulu

03/30/15 3:30pm

DRIVING BELTWAY 8, IN ORDER TO READ HOUSTON IN THE ORIGINAL Steamboat House Steakhouse, 8045 North Sam Houston Pkwy. West, HoustonTo get a full sense of the place,” writes Cort McMurray, every Houstonian should travel Beltway 8’s full 83-mile circuit. Until you can find the time, though, his tour narrative may have to suffice: “Keep going. You’re not even halfway around. There are more factories, and more office buildings, more new construction, more traffic. There’s a steak house, built to look like Sam Houston’s Huntsville home, evidence that if you give a Houstonian a little time and a little encouragement and the right financing, a Houstonian will create something ridiculous, and the horse track, where nothing ever appears to be happening. Near Bush Intercontinental, you’ll endure Roadwork Purgatory: orange cones and narrowed lanes and blinking signs, and no evidence of any work being done. It’s been that way for 19 years. East of the airport, the Beltway crosses vast swaths of tract homes and the strip centers and megachurches that inevitably follow them, funneling you toward the Jesse Jones Bridge, standing like the skeleton of some humongous sauropod, head forever bent to the Ship Channel, nosing about for some seaweed.” [OffCite] Photo of Steamboat House Steakhouse: Tomball Sesquicentennial Promenaders

03/25/15 2:00pm

HOW THE 610 LOOP EARNED ITS PRESTIGE Traffic on West Loop, Galleria, Houston“I’ve heard 610 called a lot of things, but never ‘prestigious,'” writes a Swamplot reader who is curious to learn how the phrase “the prestigious 610 Loop” nevertheless came to appear in Wikipedia — in the entry for Hines’s gated Somerset Green complex, now under construction on 46 acres of an old industrial operation at 7002 Old Katy Rd., just east of the Houston Design Center. Ah, but such is the value of Wikipedia’s references and external links sections: The source of the phrase turns out to be Hines itself. A press release that predates by a couple of years the billboards now seen advertising the 500-home development along a few (less-prestigious, no doubt) Inner Loop highways still bears the implicit declaration in its headline: “Hines to Develop 46-acre Planned Community Inside Houston’s Prestigious 610 Loop.” And so it is. [Wikipedia; press release] Photo of the 610 Loop: PINKÉ (license)

03/25/15 12:15pm

Interstate 69 Sign North of Hernando, Mississippi

Snickers and awkward guffaws are likely to be heard all the way from the Northside to Afton Oaks next week, once state transportation officials sign off on the addition of another name to the 11.9-mile segment of State Hwy. 59 within Houston’s Inner Loop: Interstate Highway 69. New signs announcing I-69 proudly to the world will subsequently be erected along in-town stretches of the freeway, where they’ll likely be targeted for pointed display in neighborhood bars, strip clubs, or dorm rooms.

Once complete, I-69 will connect the highway’s head at the Canadian border in Port Huron, Michigan, to its tail along the Mexican border, where it will spread into 3 separate paths to Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville. Planners hope the availability of a smooth, continuous ride from north to south and back again along the eventual federally sanctioned route (sometimes called the NAFTA Superhighway) will stimulate and ease trade among the entwined nations.

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Making the Link