09/29/16 2:45pm

San Jacinto River at I-10 Crossing, Channelview, TX 77530

Aerial View with Delineated San Jacinto Waste Pits Cap, I-10 at San Jacinto RiverYesterday the EPA released their recommendations for what to do about the toxic muck in the San Jacinto Waste Pits, after more than a decade of local and federal agencies poking and fishing around in the area (on either side of the I-10 crossing of the river). So far the Superfund site has been temporarily dealt with by the 2011 placement of a pretty-much-just-a-tarp-with-rocks-over-it armored cap, which the EPA says has already been repaired at least 7 times; the document released yesterday notes, however, that disturbances at the site caused by weather and previous nearby sand mining operations “could cause a catastrophic release of the highly toxic waste materials from the impoundments, if they remain in place.

The EPA wants to remove about 202,000 cubic yards of contaminated material (roughly enough to fill the floor of the Astrodome with a 13-foot-deep layer) but says it’ll have to be done carefully so as not to accidentally stir up the waste into the surrounding river while trying to get it out; the removal would also probably take place in stages to avoid potentially exposing too much of the waste at a time to storms or flooding. Here’s the EPA’s map of the 2 sites where the paper sludge was originally dumped in the 1960s — the (capped) northern area is outlined in blue and labeled Cap Site, while the southern site (outlined in yellow and labled Southern Impoundment) is covered in part by the Glendale Boatworks building, next to Southwest Shipyard:


Not Keeping a Lid on It
06/09/16 2:15pm

San Jacinto River at I-10 Crossing, Channelview, TX 77530

Aerial View with Delineated San Jacinto Waste Pits Cap, I-10 at San Jacinto RiverAnother effect of the Memorial Day weekend and early June floods: the EPA says it has had to pause some of its latest study efforts near the 1960s industrial waste pits in the San Jacinto river (shown at the top looking a bit more submerged than usual on May 31, facing north from the I-10 bridge). New rounds of sample-taking were triggered by the discovery in December that the Superfund site’s armored cap (which is made of special tarp material held down by a layer of rocks) had a 25-ft.-long hole where the rocks were missing. The EPA also notes that the damage was found within an area of the cap where no tarp was actually initially placed, in light of concerns that the rocks would slide off of it. 


More Fun With Superfund
06/02/16 10:30am


TxDOT has been doing some circling around over the thoroughly soaked Brazos River valley this week grabbing a few snapshots, including some taken yesterday morning as 31 East and Central Texas counties picked up flood-related disaster declarations from the governor’s office. Running north-to-south (right-to-left) under the murky waters shown above is FM 723 in Rosenberg, TX; you can spot the bridge rising up to cross the river’s normal channel on the left side of the photo, while SH 36 stretches away to the northwest.

Flash- and non-flash flood warnings are in effect around the region through at least Friday night, depending on how intense the rest of this week’s predicted downpours turn out to be. Meanwhile, the already-feet-past-the-previous-record flood gauge at nearby Richmond, TX, is still creeping upward this morning toward 55 ft.:


Water Under the Bridges
03/21/16 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THOSE I-45 EXPRESS LANE PLANS ARE CUTE NOW BUT JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY GROW UP pierce-street-45-downtown“Fine with these updates, provided the Pierce [Elevated] still gets torn down. Express lanes might seem like a good idea, but they’ll most likely be hindered by limited ingress/egress and often shunpiked. I’d imagine they’ll also be pretty expensive owing to the proposed modifications to the design. It’s a good design if you’re trying to center transportation around private auto use, but at some point, that can’t be the primary design consideration anymore.” [TMR, commenting on What Happens When You Decide To Redo That Downtown Freeway Plan in Your Spare Time] Photo of Pierce Elevated: Russell Hancock

02/10/16 5:00pm

I-45 Reroute and Greenspace Conceptual Plans from September 2015, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A dotted line runs right along the inside edge of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company’s former roasting plant at 2017 Preston St. at the corner with St. Emanuel St., which was declared a protected city landmark today after starts to the building’s redevelopment by new owners last year.  The line marks the proposed right-of-way for TxDOT’s plans to reroute I-45 alongside 59 and send the Pierce Elevated out to pasture, as shown in update documents released in September. The 1917 building shows up as a beige box at the corner of Preston and St. Emanuel in the above capture from the project’s interactive online map system, and the seafoam green highlighting to the left indicates the newly planned frontage roads that would run to the west of it.

But the Cheek-Neal building itself actually doesn’t appear to be on the chopping block. The blue highlighting indicating the future path of freeway lanes skirt the western edge of the structure (though they appear to engulf the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen across Congress St. to the north). Moreover, a cross-section through the I-45-59 bundle specifically shows the building in place, with the frontage road to the east and the freeways tucked out of sight below ground level:


Preservation on Preston
07/15/13 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: VISIONS OF A FREEWAY LINED WITH OFFICE BUILDINGS “I live in the area and I think it’s a big improvement on a used car lot. I would love to see the remaining car dealerships gradually moved away and a continuous strip of mid/high rises from Memorial City to Hwy 6. Now that would be a true ‘Energy Corridor.’” [outwest, commenting on A New 17-Story Office Tower Just Like the Others in the Energy Corridor] Illustration: Lulu

02/08/13 11:35am

Sharing Benignus Plaza with Jason’s Deli, Texas State Optical, and a salon, this 2,500-sq.-ft. suite at 10321 Katy Freeway will be the first Club Champion store in Texas. The Chicago-based company sells custom golf clubs built to fit, and it provides a demo space for practice. Sitting just east of Town & Country Village, the Benignus Plaza store will be almost directly across I-10 from Hicks Ventures’ proposed Block 10 West Office Park.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

02/07/13 9:30am

If you like intensely cinematic video renderings of former housewares stores set to a really rocking soundtrack, you’re going to love this one: It’s Block 10 West Office Park! This screenshot from the video shows how developer Hicks Ventures plans to maintain fidelity to the original I-10 site near Beltway 8, retaining the parking lot that used to front the former Great Indoors, which Sears sold along with 9 other stores about a year ago.


04/13/09 1:03pm

MANAGING THE NEW KATY FREEWAY MANAGED LANES Those new center sorta-HOV lanes on the new Katy Freeway will go toll starting this weekend. Here’s a little primer to help you make intelligent purchase decisions at 65 mph or more: “The lanes will now be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Outside of rush hours, they’re a toll road: every car, regardless of how many people are in it, pays $1.10 to go the full length of the lanes. During rush hour, in the rush hour direction, single occupant cars pay between $2.00 and $4.00 and 2+ carpools are free. Those rates will need to be adjusted if the lanes are too popular, because HCTRA (who operates the lanes) has promised METRO (who gave up the HOV lane to make room for them) that buses will keep moving at full speed. Single occupant vehicles and carpools will be sorted out by a three-lane toll plaza: left lane for carpools, right two lanes for SOVs.” [Intermodality; details]

02/06/09 12:19pm

KATY FREEWAY REPORT “Has anyone else noticed that traffic on I-10 is still not great? I have a ‘reverse’ commute on I-10 every day. Before the expansion traffic was fine inside the loop outbound in the morning, slow outside the loop. Inbound in the evening it was slow outside the loop, fine inside, except near the 10-45 interchange. Now things are much smoother outbound, no delay at all. Inbound, however, is a nightmare. Traffic comes to nearly a complete stop approaching the 10-45 interchange, and is usually very slow all the way back to Shepherd / Durham. Observing the ‘regular’ commuters across the median, things are of course worse. In the mornings the backup to get onto the loop or through the 10-45 interchange is insane, it’s bad in the evenings as well.” [NeoHouston]

01/21/09 2:58pm

KATY FREEWAY TOLL LANES: PAY AS YOU GO Those new HOV-ish lanes in the center of the new Katy Freeway will have a price tag attached to them by around May or so — but Harris County commissioners haven’t yet decided what it’ll be: “The county intends to use a flexible-rate system based on congestion, called dynamic pricing. Initially, certain rates will be set for rush-hour commutes, and different prices may be set for other periods. After about 90-days, the prices may change based on traffic observations. Signs near the entrances to the Katy Freeway lanes will announce the rates. Carpoolers and other high-occupancy vehicles will be able to access the Katy toll road for free during peak hours through designated lanes along the freeway. They will not be required to use toll tags — an electronic toll collection system that drivers display on their windshields — or to register with the county’s toll authority. The Katy Freeway carpool drivers must use the left-lanes only.” [Houston Chronicle, via Off the Kuff]

07/15/08 11:47am

KATY FREEWAY CONSTRUCTION: END IN SIGHT The eastbound main lanes are wide open all the way into downtown for the first time in more than 36 months. . . . Having this long stretch of roadway open paves the way for the final completion of the entire project slated for October 2008, a grand total of 23 miles.” [abc13]

03/12/08 3:41pm

House with Stockade Fence, Campbell Place, Spring Valley, Houston

Robert Boyd ends his series of bicycle tours through the Memorial Villages with a ride through the west end of Spring Valley, and concludes:

Perhaps this is a good way to characterize the Memorial Villages. They will tolerate eccentricity, but only a very small amount of it.

These are wealthy folks, and I bet many of them consider themselves to be individualists. Let your freak flags fly! You live in the Villages–you’ve made it. So do something wild and unique with your house and yard that proclaims your uniqueness.

After the jump, a few more photo gems from Boyd’s Spring Valley travelogue.