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
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:
Remember that North Canal that showed up in Plan Downtown’s maps and drawing last year and included a island in Buffalo Bayou? Well, TxDOT’s latest schematics for its planned I-45 reroute include a bypass and island as well — but in an entirely different location. The highway agency’s map above — with west facing up — indicates a new waterway draining into Buffalo Bayou right underneath the section of I-45 it plans to build in place of a portion of the Houston Housing Authority’s Clayton Homes neighborhood. How the canal gets there is obscured, but a straight course northwest appears to shoot the gap between 2 planned detention ponds and cross under the existing section of 59 (shaded gray), before linking up with the bayou again east of Elysian St. Marooned on TxDOT’s version of the make-believe, bayou-banked island the canal would create: a few of the houses in Clayton Homes.
As TxDOT’s caption makes clear, it’d be up to someone else to actually build the waterway. Doing so wouldn’t preclude the previously proposed North Canal from being dug further upstream. Plan Downtown’s less technical map at top shows that waterway beginning at White Oak Bayou and emptying into a bend of Buffalo Bayou just westof Elysian. In doing so, its course creates an exclusive new landmass home to the Harris County jail.
The 2 new METRO bus lanes — linking a proposed Bellaire transit center to the new middle-of-the-road path up Post Oak Blvd. — won’t run over the actual building at Chick-fil-A’s Richmond Ave location, but they will cut through the property. Last month, the fast-food company agreed to vacate its spot at 5005 Richmond after the State of Texas initiated an eminent domain proceeding against it — and the location subsequently closed. (The 4 strip tenants in Weingarten Realty’s surrounding Richmond Square Shopping Center — BestBuy, Mattress1One, Cost Plus World Market, and Luggage & Leather — are also targeted in the proceeding.)
Adding the new transit route (shown in the map below as a vertical orange line partly covered-over with yellowish-gray) is part of a whole tangle of changes TxDOT has planned for the 610-59 interchange:
The 660-sq.-ft. law office marooned on a traffic island in Seabrook for 86 years might finally get ousted from its spot in local what-is-that-thing lore when TxDOT’s planned road widening project gets underway along a 3-mile stretch of Hwy. 146. Attorney Michael Valentine bought the building on the corner of Bayport Blvd. and 2nd St. in 1989 and did it up with the leafy haircut and shark dolphin-themed metal edging. (Bayport Blvd. is the segment of 146 that runs through Seabrook — shown to the left of building in the photo at top.) In its past lives, the 2-story wedge at 1210 Bayport had been at various points an ice house and a bait shop.
Documents filed with Harris County Clerk show that TxDOT agreed to snatch the building from Valentine for a sum of $114,356 last October after filing an eminent domain proceeding against the entity he uses to administer the property. At least 9 other businesses along Bayport, including Ryan’s Cleaners, Tookie’s Burgers, and Laredo’s Tex-Mex Cafe have already closed or relocated ahead of the roadwork that plans to turn 146 between Red Bluff Rd. and Clear Creek — currently 4 lanes — into 12.
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:
Among a few Fifth Ward buildings abutting a new railroad underpass scheduled to be installed near the intersection of Lyons Ave. and West St.: The warehouse pictured above at 2305 Lyons Ave., graced by a Wiley Robertson mural. The Gulf Coast Rail District plans to eliminate the at-grade railroad crossing west of I-69 and directly to the east of that corner by routing Lyons Ave. under the tracks. According to the district, 30 trains a day currently cross Lyons Ave. — on 3 separate sets of tracks. North of Lyons, 3 additional at-grade crossings will be eliminated by closing down West St. entirely from a little south of Lyons to a little south of Brooks St.
The earliest possible start date for the project, which would cost an estimated $28.5 million and take approximately 2 years to complete, is listed as the fall of 2020. At a meeting last night at the Saint Arnold Brewery, which is just west of the West St. intersection, the district and TXDOT showed these images of a widened Lyons Ave. with dual 12-ft.-wide car lanes as well as bike lanes and sidewalks passing under the HB&T rail line:
Having trouble sifting through some of the massive freeway jumbles in the latest plans for that major I-45 reroute between Downtown and the Beltway? This new video (making the rounds this month as TxDOT hosts a set of public meetings to chat about the project) may or may not help you out. The 10-minute animation shows off what the project plans look like in multicolored, car-spangled 3D action, dragging viewers slowly along the entire project route from Spur 521 up to Beltway 8.
The project plans pull 45 over to the east side of Downtown, to line up alongside US 59 and dive underground behind the George R. Brown convention center. Various flavors of new express lanes, managed lanes, managed express lanes, and connectors weave into and out of a massive new 45-59-10 junction as shown above, all labeled by color. Here’s a clip of the above video showing just that section of the animation: