Comment of the Day: Why the Roads Don’t Go Through

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THE ROADS DON’T GO THROUGH Hand Drawing Houston“. . . Easy — Look at the intersection of Gessner & West Rd. Gessner is blocked to the north by a subdivision, West Rd. is blocked to the east by a landfill (or sand mine or whatever that site is; hard to tell from the aerial). Both roads could connect through, but development blocked ’em. Having been involved in a couple of these scenarios, I’ll tell you how they typically happen: Developer meets with the city after submitting a plat. City says something like ‘connect the roads or we’re not going to approve your plat and you’ll never get to build it.’ Developer says something like ‘that will result in reduced usability of my site and increased cost to develop it, so if the City wants the road to connect then the City needs to pay $X million.’ City counters with ‘we’re not going to pay for anything, but if you don’t build the road we’re going use eminent domain to take the land and build the road anyway.’ Developer finishes them off with “Well then you can either a) give me $X million and I’ll build the road, b) or I’ll donate enough $ to the council member and mayor races to get what I want.’ The city settles for c) Do nothing, back down, and don’t get the road — because otherwise the staff member who stood up to the developer in the first place would get canned. I’m not saying that’s how they all happen, but that’s how the couple I’ve been involved in went.” [Ornlu, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Missing Links] Illustration: Lulu

10 Comment

  • Growing up out in Alief, I don’t necessarily agree with this. From what I observed the city would build a minimal road (2 lane, no shoulder, huge ditch) out to the city line for their ‘major thoroughfares’. This wouldn’t give the developers an option.
    Where Gessner breaks, I don’t even think it is part of COH. I mean, it’s a cool tale of intrigue and corruption, but let’s at least check that it’s the cities responsibility first.

  • (Thanks for fixing my typo. I still dream of the day when comment editing will be possible)

  • @Ornlu – I don’t think that is a fair assessment of how city or county government works here. I have found the city planning department here to be reasonable, both to the property owner and to the long-term interests of road planning for the metro area. Looking at your example of Gessner: from Google’s plat, it appears Gessner has dedications to go all the way north to Windfern. The city doesn’t have money to build it yet. They probably got the developer of the subdivision to both dedicate land (for free) build the road (at the developer’s cost) from Plum Ridge to Buttercup Springs as part of the conditions for approving the plat, and to agree to the dedication of ROW to the north border of the property for the remainder . There is a legal balancing test of what level of extraction can be required (without cost to the government) from a landowner before it becomes a compensable condemnation.

  • Even if a thoroughfare isn’t within the city limits of Houston, it’s still the city’s responsibility to ensure to enforce the Major Thoroughfare Plan and Subdivision Ordinance throughout its ETJ.

  • Gessner/West doesn’t sound like the best example to use. With Beltway 8 just a half-mile away, is there a real urgency to build these roadways through, especially through areas not even within the COH limits yet?

  • I agree with Local Planner and others. When a major thoroughfare gets truncated by development, it forces more traffic onto highways, or worse, smaller residential streets. It gives residents fewer alternative routes to and from their homes. Officials in the 5-county metro area need to work together to ensure better connectivity, and not just rely on our increasingly-clogged freeways to move people around.

  • A prior example given of a street that does not go through is Rosslyn Rd. It deadends a few blocks north of 43rd Street. A very recent Lancaster Homes development has now guaranteed it will not go through to Pinemont. The name changes from Rosslyn to T C Jester East from 43rd to 11th street, where it merges into TC Jester West.
    From the Lancaster development to 43rd Street it is only two lanes wide, widens at 43rd north and southbound, to 3 lanes (an unprotected left turn lane, a right turn lane and the center thru lane) and promptly zips back down to a single lane in either direction until just before 34th Street.
    There may have been plans at some point to make Rosslyn/TC Jester East go through to Pinemont, but with TC Jester West along White Oak about 1/2 mile west, and Ella Blvd a mile east, there was a decision made at some point that another widened throughway was not needed. There is also a major drainage ditch (Cerebra, Celebra or some such name) that also runs just south of Pinemont that empties into White Oak Bayou and streets like Donna Bell in my section of Oak Forest and other adjacent subdivisions end in cul de sacs because of it, so natural features in the landscape that may not be very obvious probably also factor into some roads dead-ending.

  • This is so true all over Houston, there is West Airport that connects and disconnects all through Southwest Houston all the way to the Grand Parkway, and don’t forget Kirby that stops and restarts there is even a section that goes through Pearland. I guess that’s life in a big city!!

  • Atascocita/Humble area has the same issue too, but eventually developers get the idea and start connecting the dots. Timberforest is a good example

  • Living in Pittsburgh now, complaints of roads not being cut through to assist major thoroughfare connectivity feels laughable. just be happy Houston has a grid pattern. Mountains prove a greater barrier to travel than bad planning. I know every back-way to get home and it rarely effects commute time because everyone else is using the 1 or 2 alternates.

    On the plus side, I can always find some amazing hidden vista looking out over the valleys. Pluses and minuses to every city.