A Swamplot reader writes in to report that the JCI Grill across I-45 from the Home Depot near Gulfgate Mall is now closed. No need to get too close in order to tell; the electronic sign fronting the feeder road gets the message across to highway drivers as shown above. Behind it, you can see the new ramp TxDOT’s been working on to connect 610 eastbound to I-45 northbound — as well as the shadow it’s cast on the restaurant’s parking lot.
A flyer posted on the building says the construction was in part what inspired the closure:
Fasten your seat belts — it’s time for a detour down the new ramp TxDOT just opened off I-45 north to 59 north. Included in the footage: new views of the downtown skyline, along with some of an adjacent ramp now under construction between the 2 highways that’ll offer freeway sightseers an even higher vantage point when its open.
You can see it taking shape off to the left in the still photo below:
THE BUILDUP TO TEAR THINGS DOWN FOR THE NEW I-45 HAS BEGUN
“I’ve noticed a trend in lower Fifth Ward to start building or planning to build in the path of the upcoming I-45 reroute,” writes a Swamplot reader. “Is there a chance that developers can make more money on their buyout if they have developed plans?” Developed or not, there’s certainly been some action along the right of way that TxDOT plans to crater for the new highway segment — like that recent buying and selling in East Downtown across from the GRB. No one’s signed up to build anything new on those parcels yet — but with roadwork not slated to start until 2020, that’s plenty of time to get something ready ahead of the demolitions the highwaymen have planned to make way for the reroute. [Previously on Swamplot] Diagram of I-45 reroute: TxDOT
HOW A 6-BILLBOARD COURTSHIP CAMPAIGN AIMS TO LURE LEBRON JAMES TO HOUSTON
“A lot of times, players recruit players,” Rockets fan Greg Andrews tells the Chronicle’s Maggie Gordon, “Teams recruit players. And now, what I’d like to see is fans recruit players.” That’s what the 36-year-old oil-and-gas equipment executive hopes to do with the set of 6 billboards he installed along Houston roads last week. His pitch focuses on Houston’s spirit: “we’re a very hospitable, nice environment,” he says — a potential draw for the 3-time MVP as he enters his mid-30s: “Family matters. It matters in Houston, and it matters to LeBron.” Since the Cavs player isn’t likely to be driving the Houston freeways anytime soon though, Andrews hopes the signs will first inspire other fans to echo his plea (elaborated on his website) in videos shared online and hashtagged #htownthecrown. “My ultimate goal,” says Andrews “is to have J.J. Watt, Jose Altuve, Travis Scott, those Houston celebrities do ‘Hey LeBron’ video” The billboards will stay up for 3 weeks, past the July 1 deadline for LeBron to forgo the rest of his $35.7 million contract with Cleveland and opt into free agency. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Kyle Hagerty
The latest 18-wheeler to drive into the Houston Ave. bridge didn’t make enough of an impact to force repairs yesterday, although it did stall I-10 traffic all the way to T.C. Jester while TxDOT closed 2 lanes to clear the debris (including the truckload pictured above pinning a sedan) and inspect the overpass to ensure its integrity. (The last round of bridge maintenance in March — to repair a strike in December — couldn’t have come at a better time: “Just as crews were putting barriers in place,” for an overnight closure to fix the damaged structure, another truck drove into it — reported Houston Public Media’s Gail Delaughter.)
Over the last 4 years, the 14-ft.-3-in.-high bridge has been hit 22 times — reports Click2Houston; historically, it’s struck “more than any other bridge in the Houston area,” says a TxDOT spokesperson. Not a great track record — until you factor in how many trucks aren’t hitting it as a result of TxDOT’s high-tech warning system. In 2015, the agency installed infrared sensors at Mercury Dr. and Wirt Road that detect oversized vehicles and — if spotted — flash a warning message to get off the road on an electronic billboard. Between January and June 2 of this year alone, the sensors transmitted 13,477 warnings.
I-45’s new, longer flyover is creeping steadily west toward 59 north following about 7 months of work to get there. The farther-away photo above looks south from the corner of Hutchins and Jefferson streets to show where the partly built roadway currently drops off, about 2 blocks east of its planned merge with 59.
The existing ramp toward 59 north — which diverges from the Gulf Fwy. just east of Emancipation — shut down last December 1. Its soon-to-be-built successor branches off from 45 a few blocks further east, giving drivers more time to swerve onto it than they had previously:
AN ASPHALT FAULT ON THE 59 OVERPASS ABOVE LITTLE YORK RD. Over the weekend, TxDOT made temporary repairs to a stretch of the Eastex Fwy. that crosses over Little York Rd. by pouring a “hot mix” of asphalt over a portion the roadway, Meagan Flynn reports. Crews planned to return to the site for more permanent repair work tonight, but got an early call this morning after the concrete beneath the road’s surface collapsed overnight, opening up a hole straight through southbound side of the overpass. ABC13’s Courtney Fischer snapped this photo of emergency workers looking down through the hole after multiple accidents took place this morning during rush hour. Portions of the freeway are now closed for repairs. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Courtney Fischer
Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.
Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.
New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:
That’s not a retention pond pictured near the center of these aerial shots highlighting the vacant lot at 12906 Memorial Dr. — or at least that wasn’t its original main purpose: It’s the Sam Houston Tollway, shown filled almost to the brim after Hurricane Harvey flooding. “Lot has been cleared and is ready for construction,” declares the listing description for the featured 11,760-sq.-ft. vacant property, one house away from the corner of Memorial and Beltway 8. It’s now marked down to $505,000.
The only photos of the lot included in the listing are drone views that include the adjacent Memorial Dr. underpass, shown in its full-of-water configuration:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A BETTER IDEA FOR WHAT TO DO WITH THE SPACES UNDER FREEWAYS IN HOUSTON “. . . This gave me an idea. That land under freeways isn’t good for retail or anything inhabited. But it could be a perfect place to dig down and create auxiliary stormwater detention facilities.
Yeah the water will be filthy, like your friends bikes usually are, but floodwater usually is. And as auxiliary detention they would only be used in extreme rainfall events (once or twice a year during so-called ‘hundred year’ storms).” [ZAW, commenting on Comment of the Day Second Runner-Up: Things To Think About Before You Start Planning Under-Freeway Developments] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY SECOND RUNNER-UP: THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE YOU START PLANNING UNDER-FREEWAY DEVELOPMENTS “One conclusion I’ve made about the U.S., compared to European countries, is that we don’t use space efficiently. We’ve got all these open ditches, grass patches . . . along our roadways. So this Tokyo solution appeals to me.
But while I haven’t traveled extensively, I feel that selling/renting under-highway space to retail smacks of third-world. Would Houston ever go for that?
There is so much filth that washes off roadways and would filter into/onto these shops. A friend has his bike storage cage under the apartment driveway. It’s just a drive! yet the bikes always have a greasy blackness on them. Ever park in an airport garage for more than a couple days? Your car is filthy.
Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t eat a taco made under the Pierce Elevated.” [movocelot, commenting on Midtown Sears Closure Nets Rice 9 Acres near the Wheeler Transit Center] Illustration: Lulu
Here’s evidence that the scheduled reconstruction of the entire West Loop—I-69 interchange just southeast of the Galleria is about to begin. “Crews have been ripping out trees and other vegetation,” reports reader and 610 traveler John Greiner: “Much more than could be argued for improving traffic sight lines.”
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BIG SIGNS FOR BIG TEXAS CORNERS “I wish they’d rethink the billboard laws in Texas. Allow more and bigger billboards. The billboards could be taxed, and the money earmarked to our State Parks — they desperately need it. Scenic routes could be designated in certain places, and billboards banned there.
This would turn the buildings at the intersections of freeways into major advertising opportunities. It wouldn’t matter if the buildings lose money, the giant billboards on the roofs would make whatever profit the owners need. Or they might wind up demolishing the buildings to put billboards up in their place.” [ZAW, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Black Holes Where Freeways Intersect] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE BLACK HOLES WHERE FREEWAYS INTERSECT “Freeway interchange corners like this one seem to be tricky places for anything to last a long time. The long flyover ramps create this weird phenomenon where you have to exit a couple miles back and ride the feeder to that spot. Yet those same ramps make the property very prominently visible to tens of thousands of people each day who pass by overhead in their car. For whatever reason, the properties seem to cycle in and out of use and disuse. The changeover is probably exacerbated by construction freeway construction, widening, and ramp rebuilds.” [Superdave, commenting on The End of the Greenspoint Mall Is Upon Us] Illustration: Lulu