Look! Up in the Air! It’s Second Story West Loop Express Lanes!

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

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.

TxDOT also showed schematics and cross sections of the proposed additions — which include previously-considered dedicated bus lanes elevated along the path of the feeder road, from just south of I-10 to the junction with Post Oak Blvd.

Drive through the cross sections below, from north to south:


Entrance and exit ramps to the elevated express lanes (highlighted in pink) would funnel drivers on and off the raised road directly to and from 610, just north of the junction with I-10. Meanwhile, the raised bus lanes (dark gray on the far left) would pick up across I-10 from the Northwest Transit Center; this cross section of 610 just south of the I-10 interchange shows all the lanes meeting up:

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

The bus lanes would continue south along the frontage road, as the express lanes (shown below in yellow, where the two ramps have merged) lift up from the middle of the existing 610 path:

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

Just as they reach Buffalo Bayou, the express lanes would step to the side and run along the northbound feeder — at which point the bus lanes drift to the center and merge back into the existing freeway, just north of the intersection 610 with Post Oak Blvd.:

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

The express lanes would shift back to center stage by the time they reach San Felipe:

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

The above cross section should look something like the rendering below, which shows the Skyhouse River Oaks tower peeking through double-decker freeway lanes from the west:

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

Continuing south toward the interchange with 59, the elevated lanes would toughen up as they prepare to split apart:

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

Finally, the lanes split up to distribute express drivers back onto non-elevated 610, just south of the 59 interchange.

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

Renderings and schematics: TxDOT

Up High in Uptown

13 Comment

  • Since every time they “fix” the West Loop it immediately fills up, I think we have the makings for the 11th Wonder of the World! The first freeway skyscraper! Perhaps we can make it a mixed use freeway by adding some small shops and apartments along the side of the road (with a parallel parking lane), some microtel rooms like they have in Tokyo, and just to prove we have a penchant for “green living”, one level could be an extension of Memorial Park! Don’t forget! We also need ground floor retail, a multiplex theater, and on the very top level, a replacement for Astro World with the world’s longest linear roller coaster! It will have to have a new name, perhaps “Westlooptopia”?

  • Has their been any talk of looking at 225 yet? That is turning into one of the worst stretches of highway I have ever seen. I have never seen more accidents on a highway.

  • And construction will tie up two to four lanes for how many years? This will make the Post Oak bus lanes construction look like an outpatient procedure.

  • So, to alleviate traffic on 610 SB, TxDOT wants to take the relatively small amount of traffic coming down from N610 and 290 that wants to by pass the Galleria and 59 then funnel them into one lane (i.e. bottleneck) – that does become two lanes for the length of the proposed project – only to funnel them again into one lane (second bottleneck) back onto 610.

    That’s a lot of money to spend on those vehicles especially when the biggest problem on 610 SB is the bottleneck at the exit to 59. For a quick fix, just close the entrance ramp from Westheimer to 59 that creates all the weaving in the bottleneck. For the long term fix, redo the entire exit and fix the Chimney Rock exit on 59 SB. That fix would probably cost just as much as this crazy twisty roller coaster (check out the bottom of the 2 schematics on the open house site) express lane.

  • Happens every time when a north going Zax meets a south bound Zax.

  • @VMel: I think a good portion of the traffic on the west loop is bypassing 59 and the Galleria. It may not look like it because they are all stuck behind the southbound pile-up at the 59 exit, or the northbound pile-up at the Memorial exit.
    I’m confused by the drawings. Do they really show one lane leading to the express way, turning into two lanes for a while, then back to one lane for the exit? That doesn’t make any sense. But I’ve long wanted an express route that would let cars skip just this part of the loop.

  • This is getting ridiculous and starting to be a scary theme. Seriously, if we don’t have money to pay for any new roads then just fire the damn engineers already so we can save some money until we can actually fund and address the real issues at hand.
    I can’t think of a single person I know that travels this part of 610 that isn’t trying to get to or from I10 or uptown.

  • After the pointer by VMel, I checked out Schematic 2 on the open house website. Ay, yay, yay. Those elevated lanes are weaving all over the place, you’d think the TXDOT engineers were drunk when they drew the plans.
    I have to agree with dnm’s comment about that the construction headache will only make things worse for however long it takes to do this. Sad to say but we should just leave the West Loop alone.
    People can change their routes easier and faster than the construction – plus its congested state puts a natural limit on how many cars can use the thing. Eventually, people will avoid the area and businesses will follow to greener pastures. I avoid the whole clusterflock that the Galleria area is if I have a choice (and, boy, do I ever).

  • This is all musings, I met with TxDot last week, and he specifically informed me that they were NOT going to pursue this endeavor. Namely because “businesses were upset about it” Ahem, Hotel Derek, which would lose a shit ton of customers that get reeled in during the constant gridlock traffic. Then they would have to shut down their prostitution ring, and we couldn’t have that happening.

  • When I first read about this I thought, “did TXDOT learn nothing from I35 thru Austin?” After all, the shifting of exits on west loop seemed really sane, maybe there is a really good idea here. After looking at the plans it does appear that nothing has been learned.

  • I’m confused as to why the 610 express lanes need to be separate from the 610 bus lanes.

    May need to draw something up.

  • TxDOT should have done this from the start when they reconfigured 610 several years ago. They are inept at their jobs and the freeway system in Houston shows it. Austin had elevated sections back in the early 90s for bypassing local roads to keep traffic flowing. Yet in Houston, the largest city in the state they said no to the concept.