How long will it take a Katy worker to zoom past acres of newly paved prairie, over a now-uprooted prehistoric burial ground, and under EZ Tag toll sensors on a lunchtime jaunt to the outlet mall in Cypress? Maybe as quickly as 5 minutes, if the 200mph speed reached last week by driver John Hennessey in one of his company’s souped-up Corvettes on the 15-mile stretch of the Grand Parkway between I-10 and Hwy. 290 can be maintained. Of course, that might become a little more difficult once the new Prairie Tollway opens to slower-moving traffic for the first time this coming Saturday.
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200mph from Mall to Mall
WHERE THE ACTION IS, IN AND AROUND HOUSTON From Dug Begley’s report on next weekend’s dual openings of the North Line light-rail extension and the Hempstead-to-Katy Segment E of the Grand Parkway: “[Judge] Emmett frequently notes that about 500,000 people live within Loop 610, about 1.5 million live between Loop 610 and the Sam Houston Tollway and about 2 million live outside the tollway within Harris County. ‘We’re seeing a lot of people moving inside the Loop,’ Emmett said. ‘That growth is going on. But for every person moving in, about four people are locating outside the beltway. Nothing is going to change that growth pattern.” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Map: Grand Parkway Association
The Art Guys say their van will be doing about 60 mph around the 38-mile-circumference of the 610 Loop this weekend, which means that in 12 hours of continuous driving, they should make something shy of 19 times around the Inner Loop — minus pit stops for gassing up and, uh, watering down. Then they’ll turn around and unwind for an additional 12 hours in the opposite direction. What are these guys driving at? Feel free to call the artists themselves while they’re on the road, using the number emblazoned on the side of the van (832-712-6207) if you’ve got questions about the project; they plan to start their 24-hour freeway adventure at 5 p.m. this Saturday from the North Shepherd entrance ramp.
Who’s footing the bill for such loopiness?
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: MORE LOOPS FOR HOUSTON Houston loops, 2113:
2.) Beltway 8.
3.) 1960/Highway 6.
4.) Grand Parkway.
5.) Uber loop: Angelton to Rosenberg to Fulshear to Katy/Brookshire to Waller to Magnolia to Conroe to Cleveland to Liberty.
6.) Mega loop: Freeport to Bay City to El Campo / Wharton to Columbus to Brenham to Navasota to Huntsville to Liberty to Beaumont.
7.) GIGA LOOP: Port Lavaca to Victoria to Schulenberg to La Grange to Giddings to College Station to Madisonville to Crockett to Lufkin to Jasper to Orange.
8.) I-35. [DNAguy, commenting on Headlines: Astrodome Yard Sale Sellout; St. Thomas Wins Law Enforcement High; previously on Swamplot] Illustration: Lulu
The reader who sends this photo from this morning’s commute — on I-45 North near Canino — says it appears workers were “just putting up” this “Save the Dome” sign from OurAstrodome.org on the billboard this morning. “I drive by there every day and I don’t remember seeing it [before today],” the reader reports. The campaign ad in support of Harris County Proposition 2 on today’s ballot — which will determine the fate of the Astrodome — is visible going northbound on the freeway. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
This rendering appears to show the new Phillips 66 global headquarters planned to go up in Westchase. Back in September, the ConocoPhillips offshoot announced it would be building something on the Beltway 8 feeder next to a pair of hotels just north of Westheimer. The announcement went on to say that the 14.2-acre site bound by City West Blvd., Private Dr., and Cityplace Dr. will have a training and development center, conference space, credit union, gym, cafeteria, coffee shop, and convenience store.
Rendering: Swamplot inbox
Next month, reports Real Estate Bisnow’s Catie Dixon, construction’s supposed to start on 3 more segments of the Grand Parkway: That’s why F1, F2, and G on the map here are colored in that cautionary yellow. And where G ends? Not coincidentally, adds Dixon, at that future intersection with U.S. 59, planned to be completed by 2015, the 1400-acre master-planned Valley Ranch is getting ready to sprawl out.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PAY WAY “ALL new highways should be toll roads. Every last one of them. If you use it, you pay for it. If you don’t use it, no harm to you. You don’t HAVE to drive it. YOU decide by your actions if you wish to pay more. Nothing makes more sense economic equality-wise than that.” [Thomas, commenting on TxDOT Presents Toll Lanes Down the Middle of 288]
Note: A TxDOT spokesperson has confirmed that the total cost of the project is $1.3 billion. Story updated below.
This map shows where commuters would get in and out of the toll lanes that TxDOT says it will build in the grassy median of Texas 288 — part of a project it’s proposing to help deal with Med Center congestion and development southwest of town by widening 26 miles of the highway between U.S. 59 and County Road 60. Several new overpasses at intersections and upgraded connections to the Loop and Beltway 8 are also included in the project, which TxDOT says will cost about
$1.38 million $1.3 billion. The full extent of the project will be rolled out tonight at a public hearing in Houston and again on Thursday in Pearland.
Last month, Cite magazine editor Raj Mankad hiked 8 miles through the Katy Prairie to see the prehistoric human remains found during the construction of Grand Parkway’s Segment E for himself. He brought back a few photos and an essayist’s-eye-view of the archaeological saga:
It appeared as if TxDOT had aimed the 15-mile-long highway segment directly at the burial ground. The highway was suspended, figuratively and physically, like an unintentional monument honoring the burial grounds, like Texas was trying to tell anyone in an airplane or spaceship to LOOK HERE. . . . What I saw were several pieces of plywood, propped up on five-gallon paint buckets, covering what I presume to be the human remains and the tools, buffalo teeth, and other objects found with them. The plywood was weighted down with rocks. . . . To my amateur eyes, the excavation looked makeshift and tenuous, not systematic or professional.
Photos: Brett Sillers
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ALSO, PAVING OVER THEIR ANCESTORS “Yes we do know what people were doing 10,000 years ago. Basically it’s the same thing we are doing today. Making and raising children, trying to feed our family, and working to have safety, shelter, and clothing.” [Bill, commenting on Grand Parkway Will Pile on the Dead]
GRAND PARKWAY WILL PILE ON THE DEAD An agreement between TxDOT, the Harris County Historical Commission, and 5 Native American tribes over what to do with the prehistoric human remains unearthed in the prairie highway’s path will allow construction of the Grand Parkway Segment E to continue — with only a bump in the road: “Under the agreement, TxDOT will fill the excavated areas and cover them with rip rap, creating a permanent burial site near where the road would cross Cypress Creek, about three miles south of U.S. 290.” The reburial might confuse future anthropologists, though: “[UH professor of anthropology Kenneth] Brown expressed frustration over TxDOT’s handling of the site, saying crews saved some artifacts but ruined the area for richer study. The agency’s crews scraped and sifted mechanically instead of digging by hand. ‘When you scrape, you will find things, but you won’t be able to see how they were associated,’ Brown said. ‘That is a shame because we do not know what people were doing 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, and we won’t know now.'” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of gravesite: abc13
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE RING ROAD NAME INFLATION CHALLENGE “Only problem is that with a huge name like Grand Parkway, what will we call the next, even bigger loop?” [Frank, commenting on Three More Links in the Grand Parkway Are Now Ready To Roll]
THREE MORE LINKS IN THE GRAND PARKWAY ARE NOW READY TO ROLL Yesterday the Texas Transportation Commission rubber-stamped TxDOT’s selection of a developer for 3 additional segments of the Grand Parkway — if you count FM1960 and Hwy. 6, Houston’s fourth ring road. Segments F1, F2, and G of State Hwy. 99 will run from Hwy. 290 east to the newly minted I-69 (also known as U.S. 59). Along the way, the new stretch will rub elbows — conveniently — with the new ExxonMobil campus in the former pine forest west of the I-45 intersection and the start of the Hardy Toll Rd. Zachry-Odebrecht Parkway Builders will be in charge of the $1.04 billion project. Construction is expected to start next year, with the toll road opening in 2015. [TxDOT] Map: Tollroads News
OLD BONES ORDERED OUT OF THE WAY OF THE GRAND PARKWAY District judge Reece Rondon has given TxDOT the go-ahead to remove 2 sets of prehistoric human remains contractors found over the summer in the path of Grand Parkway’s Segment E — as well as any additional gravesites contractors encounter nearby. The bones and bone fragments — some estimated to be as much as 9,000 years old — were discovered on the northern bank of Cypress Creek, less than 3 miles south of where the Grand Parkway will intersect US 290. According to documents submitted to the court, investigators had been aware since 1996 of an extensive archeological site in that location. The Harris County Historical Commission had requested that TxDOT delay the project to allow more study of the artifacts; it is appealing the ruling. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of gravesite: abc13