Love that rush of vertigo from driving up the entrance ramp at Hidalgo St. onto the southbound West Loop? Freeway thrill-seekers may have some new options in a few years. The above rendering of new elevated express lanes along the West Loop between I-10 and 59 made an appearance at last night’s TxDOT Open House, where plans for the proposed project were presented for public comment. The drawing faces southwest across the intersection of San Felipe and 610 toward the Williams Tower (far left), and shows the lanes flying high over the existing freeway.
Renderings presented for the first time at last month’s Spacecom convention show the latest round of updated designs for the first phase of the planned spaceport campus that will nestle between the existing Ellington Airport runways and Space Center Blvd. in Clear Lake. The images show a campus that is notably more conventional than what might have been suggested by the curvilinear designs released in 2013. The new plans most resemble a suburban office park version of Thomas Jefferson’s plan for the University of Virginia, complete with surface parking lots tucked behind 2-story buildings stepped back from a central roadway axis.
With a row of Downtown towers looking on from the south, 2 lanes are being added to Burnett St., along the northern boundary of the 50-acre site formerly known as the Hardy Rail Yards. The thickening runs between N. Main St. and Hardy St. At the western end of that stretch, next to the Burnett Transit Center stop on the Red Line’s northern extension, a new baby intersection has been born at Freeman St. just in front of the rail overpass, just up a ways from the N. Main tunnel:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON’S PRIMARY UNIT OF MEASURE “Unfortunately it will take much more than sprucing up Buffalo Bayou Park to make Houston a more pleasant place. The big problem is that for most people in Houston, the only way to get to a nice place like BBP is the only way you can get anywhere — by car. And that fact alone will take years of political will, planning, and hard work to change. And as long as it doesn’t change, Houston will remain what it is currently: a road system that people sleep and work around.
The primary datum in a place like NY is the human body. Planning with the human body as the primary reference point generally makes for a pleasant place for people. Here in Houston, the primary unit of reference is the automobile, as such Houston primarily accommodates cars, not people. Scale matters. Infrastructure (such as sidewalks, small neighborhood parks, bike lanes, rails, etc) matters.
Buffalo Bayou Park is a nice place because it is designed for people. Houston on the other hand . . .
In terms of civic amenities and property values, ‘you can’t have both’ only in the market as it currently exists. We ought to be able to have a decent city and also live in it, but that can’t happen until we decide to decide that enough’s enough and begin actually planning our city.
There are people and institutions in Houston working hard to that end, but so far they are too much ‘a voice in the [civic] wilderness.’ I’m optimistic though. I see people noticing what makes a nice city, where our shortcomings are, and working toward implementing necessary changes.” [Andrew, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Buffalo Bayou Park Pinch] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE’S OUR MEMORIAL PARK BYPASS? “This ramp will now allow more traffic to use Shepherd as an alternate to the freeway system. Thus creating longer delays for those who use surface roads to travel. What is sorely required is a road that would flyover Memorial Park adding a much needed way to travel from the inner loop north. Currently, the only options are the West Loop and Kirby/Shepherd. Both of which are overly congested at most times of the day. It doesn’t help that Shepherd is down to two lanes from four in stretch from Westheimer to Dallas while the city installs much needed storm drainage.” [jgbiggs, commenting on Your Upgrade from Shepherd Dr. to the North Fwy. Will Be Much Smoother Starting Today] Illustration: Lulu
Reader Scot Luther, who claims to have witnessed “wrecks and several flat tires” on a gap in the bayou-side trail along the north side of Brays Bayou just across N. MacGregor Way from the eastern border of Hermann Park wonders why this portion of the several-year-old concrete trail was never completed. Here’s a photo of the scene — where more cautious bike riders regularly dismount for the muddy or bumpy path under the Almeda Rd. bridge. A few hundred ft. beyond the bridge, the trail picks up again on its way to Riverside Terrace.
HOUSTON METHODIST’S NEW SUBURBAN-STYLE TMC HELIPAD From reader Stephen J Alexander comes this pic of the new helistop that’s landed at the corner of Bertner Ave. and S. Braeswood, just over the southern (Brays Bayou) border from the Texas Medical Campus, as viewed during construction last month. It’s directly across the street from M.D. Anderson’s 25-story Mid Campus Building 1, but the helicopter landing pad is a project of Houston Methodist Hospital, according to permit info posted onsite; it sits on a portion of Methodist’s West Pavilion remote lot. Photo: Stephen J Alexander
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.
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.
The company planning to build a bullet-train linkup between Dallas and Houston today identified its preferred route for the hour-and-a-half journey. The alignment, which the Texas Central Railway calls the Utility Corridor because it makes use electrical utility right-of-ways in Harris, Waller, and nearby counties, roughly follows south of Hwy. 290 once it enters Harris County, along the BNSF tracks parallel to Hempstead Rd. It would head into Downtown along the Union Pacific tracks paralleling Washington Ave. In the map above, the route is shown in gold (the line in red shows the second-choice route, along a different BNSF right-of-way).
METRO PONDERS HOW TO SPEND A LIGHT RAIL SURPLUS What should Metro do with the extra $39.9 million it’ll end up with after the Southeast and East End rail lines open in April (on the 11th, it now looks like)? If the money isn’t spent, it’ll have to go back to the Federal Transit Administration, reports Dug Begley. $24.9 million of that would have to be spent on projects related to the year-plus-old North Line extension (the Red line), and $14.5 million would be restricted to use on the Southeast Line (aka the Purple Line). Among the proposals: building an elevated walkway between the bus transit center and the rail line at Northline; putting in extra parking at Palm Center, at the end of the Purple Line; shelters for bus stops near stations; an additional station on the Purple Line between Elgin and Leeland; safety or operational improvements, such as a restroom for train operators at a station; a crossing arm on Texas Ave. near Chartres St. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Burnett Station: Skyline Art Services