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, theÂ 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.
Not to be outdone by last week’s midday plug-upÂ of the Alfred Hernandez Tunnel beneath the railroad tracks and the Burnett TCÂ Red Line stop, another semi making its way through the passage got lodged in the tunnelÂ late this morning — getting torn open end-to-end in the process. But that’s not even the first truck stuckage incident at the underpass in the last 24 hours, according to a reader who’s had both a camera and a Twitter account trained on the recently retooled intersection for at least the last few months.
The reader tells Swamplot that another truck got stuck briefly last night, and that it happens about 6 times a week:Â “Our camera system auto-wakes when it hears something beyond a certain threshold; most drive away, presumably nervous[ly] on their way to have a talk with the boss.” Some work on the tunnel has been on the city’s docket this spring, and was approved at a mid-April meeting; that’s likely to start aroundÂ the end of the month.Â
Here’s the scene from above as of early this afternoon:
Having troubleÂ sifting through some of the massive freeway jumblesÂ in theÂ latest plans for that major I-45 rerouteÂ between Downtown and the Beltway? This new videoÂ (making the rounds this month asÂ TxDOTÂ hosts a set of public meetings to chat about the project) may or may not help you out. The 10-minute animation shows offÂ what the project plans look like in multicolored, car-spangled 3D action, dragging viewers slowlyÂ along the entire project route from Spur 521 up to Beltway 8.
The project plans pullÂ 45 over to the east side of Downtown, toÂ line up alongsideÂ US 59 and dive underground behind the George R. Brown convention center. Various flavors of new express lanes, managed lanes, managed express lanes, and connectorsÂ weave into and out of a massive newÂ 45-59-10 junctionÂ as shown above, all labeled by color. Here’s a clip of the above video showing just that section of the animation:
A new lawsuit was filed yesterday against TIRZ 16, the Uptown Development Authority, and the city, alleging that the creation of the reinvestment zone in the Galleria area wasÂ in violation ofÂ Texas law, since the zone can’t reasonably be considered “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.” Rather, the filing claims, the city ordinance that originally created the TIRZ used the justification thatÂ the Uptown area needed traffic decongestion to avoid losing its status as one of the wealthiest districts in the city, and to avoid draining business to the city’s ever-expanding suburban fringe. AÂ hearing is going on todayÂ over a possibleÂ injunction on further spending or work on Uptown projects, and Mike Morris says that city council delayed a voteÂ yesterday on allowing Uptown an additional $65 million in debt.
An essential addition to the growing list of guides for Houstonians on wherenot to go this weekend: the above map of road closures around the George R. Brown Convention Center district. Both red shading and cross-hatching mark theÂ temporary carless zones, while a dashed black line shows the location of the perimeter fence for area events. Meanwhile, miles away at actual Super Bowl location NRG Stadium,Â otherÂ street closures were planned to go into effect yesterdayÂ evening (and are scheduled to last throughÂ Monday morning):
Replacement work on the Yale St. bridgeÂ over White Oak Bayou now won’t start until the 25th, according to an update from TxDOT. The original plannedÂ construction startÂ drifted past in the middle ofÂ Monday’s deluge; noÂ changes have been mentionedÂ yet for expectedÂ 2018 reopening date.
Meanwhile, TxDOT’s Yoakum office says it’sÂ keeping an eye on US 59 in Wharton County to the southwest of town, though that highway is not closed at the momentÂ according to theÂ agency’s interactive mapping systemÂ (pictured above). The mapÂ shows areas of road closures, flooding, and construction, withÂ written descriptions for each site clarifyingÂ whichÂ lanes are affected, by what, and how badly. Zooming in further gives a clearer picture of the extent of some of the closures — below is a view of west Houston, showing the stretch of Hwy. 6 near the Addicks reservoir that could be closed for the next 4 to 6 weeks:Â
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TWO WRONGS AND A RIGHT MAKE A FASTER LEFT “There are ways to speed up intersections which are scientifically proven and sound but rarely implemented. One way to reduce accidents, improve traffic flow, and decrease left turn times is to prohibit left-hand turns altogether. Left-hand turns would be completed by driving through the intersection and making a u-turn before the next intersection, followed by a right-hand turn. The same lanes would flow faster, and more traffic could be carried with no increase in infrastructure. Left turn times are actually decreased by this method, which seems counter-intuitive. Traffic engineers recognize this, but neighborhood activists and politicians frequently oppose it as being inconvenient for drivers. . . .” [Jardinero1, commenting on Comment of the Day: A Different Approach to the Future of Downtown Approaches] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THE FUTURE OF DOWNTOWN APPROACHES “An alternative that I would heartily recommend would be to work on nearby crosstown routes that may serve to relieve pressure on downtown-area freeways. Those would also be expensive and controversial, but also they are the low-hanging fruit; for example running a toll facility along the north-south Union Pacific ROW. Or completing SH 35 and then creating individually-tolled grade separations from there up Scott St. or Lockwood. OST is a very good candidate for this, as is the N. Shepard/Durham corridor. Do anything possible to speed up thru-traffic along Bayous by removing signalized intersections, especially along the Braeswoods, the T.C. Jesters, and of course Memorial Dr. and Allen Pkwy. These are all things that we would want to have around later on during the course of construction, anyway — but also, decentralized improvements have the advantage of being less subject to economic obsolescence resulting fromâ€¦say driverless cars and ridesharesâ€¦which place a big question mark on the near-term utility of mega-projects that required perhaps a decade to finish.” [TheNiche, commenting on TxDOTâ€™s Plans for Freeway Expansion Around and Below the Newly Protected Cheek-Neal Coffee Building] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS “The love affair with trains by a certain group of urbanists in the US is a ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality; they always point how wonderful public transport is in Europe. Well, if you actually lived in you Europe (and I have for many years), you realize that public transport is a horrible pain in the ass to live with every day. Itâ€™s inefficient if you have to go anywhere that is not on direct route, you have to make plans days in advance if you need to be across town at a particular time, you have to go to the market every F-ing day to buy food because you canâ€™t carry more than a couple of bags at a time. You eventually give up after a while and end up confining your life to within a couple of blocks of your house. Donâ€™t even get me started when the weather is bad. Thereâ€™s one thing everyone in dense European cities dreams of: owning a car.” [commonsense, commenting on Which Came First: the Traffic or the Freeway Lanes?] Illustration: Lulu