02/02/16 12:00pm

HOUSING, RETAIL, RAMP TO 59 PLANNED FOR I-45 AT CULLEN BLVD. Rendering of the Gateway at Cullen, Cullen Blvd. at I-45, Greater Third Ward, Houston, 77004 New housing geared toward University of Houston and Texas Southern University students is planned near the U of H Main Campus’s main entrance on Cullen Blvd., according to PRNewswire. Plans for the Gateway at Cullen development include 531 beds (in single, double, quadruple, and quintuple groupings), mostly in townhome-esque 2-story configurations, which will contrast with most of Fountain Residential’s previous campus-geared housing projects in the area.  PRNewswire also reports that plans are in the works to replace the nearby Bestway Motor Inn with a new on-ramp to 59, and that the former Fingers Furniture warehouse will be turning into a retail center anchored by a grocery store. [PRNewswire, previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Fountain Residential

01/21/16 11:30am

Big Tex Tree Nursery, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

The Memorial Branch of Big Tex Tree Nurseries at 10939 Katy Fwy. is closed for good, and its tree-dealings have moved south to the company’s Sugar Land locale for now. The Christmas trees disappeared after the holiday season, and everything else followed suit: “even the port-a-potty,” writes the reader who sent in photos of the now-bare freeway-side lot at Wycliffe and I-10, just outside Beltway 8. A Big Tex employee says the company is planning to open up another Houston location at some point, but for now the other spots in Sugar Land, Conroe, and Spring will have to do.

The lot is shown below post-faux-forest-departure; meanwhile, someone was out marking up the sidewalk with orange paint last week:

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Land Cleared on I-10
01/20/16 10:15am

Downtown Aquarium Ferris Wheel, 410 Bagby St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

As of rush hour yesterday, a reader tells Swamplot, the Downtown Aquarium’s Ferris wheel at 410 Bagby St. was missing something — namely, the whole wheel bit. Workers were observed dismantling the spokes earlier in the day at the freeway-side restaurant-tainment complex. According to the restaurant’s website, the wheel is out for winter maintenance and won’t be spinning again until March 1st.

From Memorial Dr. headed west under I-45, here’s an evening snapshot of the newly unemployed support posts:

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Bagby at Buffalo Bayou
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
01/05/16 12:45pm

Grand Parkway Segments H and I-1

The Army wants you to send the Corps of Engineers your thoughts on Segments H and I-1 of the Grand Parkway — if you can get them in order by February 1st. A public comment period, following some slight route revisions to the 37-miles-plus-a-bit-extra stretch of the in-progress outer-outer loop shown above in red, opened on December 30th. This next addition to Houston’s increasingly elaborate Saturn cosplay will run from 59 between Porter and New Caney through Montgomery, Liberty, and Chambers counties, skirting southeast of Dayton to link up with I-10 near Mont Belvieu.

Want to read up before having your say? The Final Environmental Impact Statement and associated documentation for the two segments, which collectively total 2,829 pages in pdf, have been helpfully split into 2 volumes for your perusing pleasure.

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Eastex Connections
12/11/15 12:30pm

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:

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Up High in Uptown
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
05/28/15 10:00am

Proposed Site of Bingham Court, 1005 Bingham St., Houston

Proposed Bingham Court Townhomes, 1005 Bingham St., First Ward, HoustonWhat’s going on behind their backs? A closeup of the rendering for Bijan Builders’ planned Bingham Court Townhomes shows an unusual confluence of necks and freeways off to the left of the image. As a view of the site at 1005 Bingham St. (at top) confirms, the hackles of the oversized busts of George Washington, Stephen F. Austin, Abraham Lincoln, and Sam Houston that make up David Adickes’ Mount Rush Hour quartet (aka American Statesmanship Park) front I-45 and I-10 right next door to the First Ward site.

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Hackles Rising
04/23/15 5:30pm

Proposed Changes to I-45, I-10, and I-69, Houston

There’s so much to say and gawk at in the latest “proposed recommended alternatives” for reshaping I-45 now being shopped around by TxDOT and a host of freeway-happy consultants — enough for a fourth round of public meetings scheduled for tonight and next week, plus hours of extra-curricular speculation. The plans encompass dramatic changes to the North Freeway all the way from Beltway 8 to a new split adjacent to the Third Ward, including eye-opening widenings, all sorts of exciting tunnels and high-flying overpasses, a slew of spaghetti-like interchanges, and — the pièce de résistance — the wholesale give-up of I-45’s current L-shaped wrap around Downtown, including the Pierce Elevated.

These 5 images from our highway overlords’ exciting imagined future sum it up best:

1. The X-ing-out of the Pierce Elevated (diagrammed above). If the elevated portion of I-45 along the path of Pierce St. goes away, how will anyone be able to tell where Downtown ends and Midtown begins? Don’t worry, a few proposals are being shopped around to turn a de-automobiled structure into a High Line—like public park or bikeway. (Though much bigger, ′cuz Houston.)

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Freeway Frenzy!
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)

07/10/14 11:01am

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).

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Having Baby on Board
11/14/13 2:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FLOODING DOWNTOWN WITH UNDER-FREEWAY PARKING “I’d rather see parking garages under 45 and 59 than retail. I’d rather not have to worry about car fires and 18-wheeler accidents on the roof of my building. The insurance costs would be incredible. Tens of thousands of parking spaces could be made under 45 and 59. Vast quantities of free, or very cheap, parking would reduce the demand for surface parking in the Downtown area. Owners of empty lots would be more inclined to develop the empty lots if drivers were no longer willing to pay $10 to $20 per car for every sporting event. For $1 parking I’d be willing to walk half a dozen blocks or hop on the light rail to get to my destination. Direction way finding for parking for out-of-town visitors would be easy — ‘park under the freeway.’ Developers would gain an advantage as supplying parking levels would no longer be a given necessity of building in Downtown Houston. Even typical parking garage congestion come rush hour wouldn’t be an issue due to the linear nature the 45 and 59 garages would have to take. Multiple entrances and exits could face Pierce and Chartres with dedicated right-of-way lanes to the street. Line the lengthy parking garages with a spine of moving sidewalks so ‘prime’ parking spots are minimized. You’ll always be five minutes from a rail stop.” [Thomas, commenting on Headlines: Metro’s New Bus Plan; The Score Next Door] Illustration: Lulu

09/13/13 11:00am

HIGHLY VISIBLE BILLBOARD REMINDS HOUSTON DRIVERS OF THE INVISIBILITY OF HOMELESSNESS You can’t miss it: Just south of Downtown, this pristine billboard went up recently above the northbound feeder of I-45. Its lonesome assertion, “Even the pigeons don’t see me,” is attributed to the “voice of the homeless.” What gives? Glasstire’s Paula Newton explains: “[I]t’s meant to raise awareness about homelessness. The billboard is a project by artist Jessica Crute in conjunction with a group show at Deborah Colton Gallery called Collective Identity. Crute [is] president and founder of a young non-profit organization Voice of the Homeless.” [Glasstire] Photo: Glasstire