THE ODDS ON A PIERCE ELEVATED COMEDOWN Writing 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 Swamplot] Plan of “currently approved scheme” for I-45 rerouting around downtown, showing possible green space: SWA Group
B TEAM WANTS TO SEND THE GRAND PARKWAY WHERE THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO GO July 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]
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:
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:
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.”
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.
DRIVING BELTWAY 8, IN ORDER TO READ HOUSTON IN THE ORIGINAL “To 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
HOW THE 610 LOOP EARNED ITS PRESTIGE “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)
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.
By 1:35 in the morning 2 Saturdays ago, Troy Dickerson had left his Rosenberg home and found himself speeding past the Sweetwater and Williams Trace exits on the far-left lane of the Southwest Fwy. while his wife Kristin, who was sitting in the passenger seat, let out a series of screams to work her way through waves of contractions. Almost exactly a half-hour later, their baby, Truett, was born while his mom stood outside the family’s white Toyota pickup, which was by then parked in the valet drop-off area of the Women’s Pavilion at Texas Children’s Hospital, at 6621 Fannin St. in the Med Center (where, perhaps incidentally, the mother works as a childbirth educator).
A SLIGHT TRAFFIC DELAY ON THE PATH TO BUILDING HOUSTON’S FIFTH RING ROAD There’s the 610 Loop, Beltway 8, Highway 6 and FM 1960, and the Grand Parkway. What will come next in the grand sequence of giant highways encircling Houston? Why that might be Highway 36A, also dubbed the Prairie Parkway, possibly because the segment of the Grand Parkway opened just a few months ago through similar natural landscape is now already too urbanized to hold onto a prairie-styled name. But the apparent eagerness of Waller County commissioners to have additional tolled segments added to link Highway 36 to State Hwy. 6 (the Waller one, not the West Houston road of the same name) to form what would likely become Houston’s fifth ring-road orbit path hit a slight bump yesterday, possibly because of opposition led by the Katy Prairie Conservancy, whose lands stand in the path. A scheduled vote on a proposed resolution in support of a highway-boosting support group called the Highway 36A Coalition and its request for TxDOT funds to study the proposed 107-mile corridor was withdrawn before it could be discussed, according to a report on Facebook posted by someone who attended the court session. “Instead, a ‘workshop’ has been scheduled for next Wednesday, May 7, immediately after the Court’s regular session,” reads the report. In public comments, according to the attendee, all 11 people who spoke about the proposed highway “seemed skeptical of the project in general.” [Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead; previously on Swamplot] Map showing path of proposed Prairie Parkway: Highway 36A Coalition