And now, a very special category in the 2012 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate is open for voting! What makes it so special? Well, the word “special” is in the name of the award, for one thing. It’s our Award for Special Achievement in Traffic. And we need your judgment, your comments, and your votes to determine the winner.
The official nominees in this category — as advanced and presented by Swamplot readers — are listed below. Now’s your chance to vote — which you can do up to 4 times if you follow our rules: once in a comment below, once in an email to Swamplot, once using Twitter, and once by scribbling on the wall of Swamplot’s page on Facebook. That not enough for you? Then recruit your friends to vote, too! But make sure you get all the votes in by the deadline: 5 pm on Wednesday, December 26th.
And now, the official nominees for the Award for Special Achievement in Traffic:
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1. The West Alabama St. Reversible Center Lane. “Sometimes it flows west. Sometimes it flows east. Sometimes it’s a turning lane. Make sure you know which way it’s headed at the moment, and that everyone around you does too.”
2. Feeder Road Construction Along I-10 between Washington and Taylor. “For years, this area managed to get around just fine without freeway frontage roads, and to avoid the car dealerships, furniture stores, topless bars, and fast food restaurants that clutter so many of our other freeways. But thanks to the stimulus, federal funds for highway reconstruction suddenly became available, and this project, which had been languishing on TxDOT’s back burner, met the definition of “shovel ready.” After 3 years of construction, it still is not finished; the Shepherd and Durham bridges have been reduced from 4 to 2 lanes, the westbound Shepherd exit and on-ramp are still wacky, there’s an extra traffic signal on Yale, and trees that once lined that section of the freeway are gone. Exits and entrances are so close to each other that motorist conflict — usually in the form of regular games of chicken — is pretty much guaranteed. This was an ‘improvement’ in search of a problem.”
3. The Yale St. Bridge. “Neighborhood group Responsible Urban Development for Houston discovered, then began drawing attention to problems with the 1931 bridge over White Oak Bayou as part of its campaign opposing the Washington Heights Walmart — using the findings to bolster its argument that the big box store would strain the area’s already aging infrastructure. But by the time TxDOT lowered the bridge’s load rating to just 3,000 lbs. per axle (below the weight of some SUVs and pickups), Walmart and the locals had become de facto allies, both pushing for improvements or a replacement. RUDH still wants the deteriorating bridge shut down, but at least it’s now scheduled to be rebuilt — in 4 years.”
4. Ashby Highrise Bissonnet Park-In. “During rush hour on August 28th, neighborhood opponents of the Ashby Highrise parked their cars bumper to bumper along Bissonnet, filling just about every street parking space from Shepherd almost to Montrose — with the intention of causing a traffic jam in front of the site of the tower they were protesting. They stood on the sidewalk with signs reading, ‘If you think this is bad, just wait’ — as cars whizzed by. It didn’t actually cause a traffic jam; even at 5:30 pm on a weekday, there isn’t much traffic on Bissonnet. I drove right through it at nearly the posted limit and hardly touched my brakes once. I even doubled back just to make sure the result was the same in the other direction. It was.”
5. Free Tuesdays at the Houston Zoo. “This monthly event regularly caused gridlock and parking catastrophes for everyone stuck in a car on the northern end of the Med Center, but the chaos reached a fever pitch during a single 3-hour period on June 5th, when approximately 12,000 animal-seeking visitors arrived at the Hermann Park attraction. Out-of-towners desperately trying to navigate the area’s maze of streets ran into wandering hordes of families trying to find their way to the zoo. Med Center employees who showed up a little later than usual to their contract garage parking space found spots snatched up by zoo-goers. Ambulance drivers trying to manuever patients to Ben Taub or Memorial Hermann were stuck in immobilized traffic. Police began improvising roadblocks to manage safety concerns. A few days later, zoo officials announced their decision to suspend the program.”
6. Low Speed Limits in Unincorporated Harris and Northern Brazoria Counties. “They’re all over the burbs: Shadow Creek Ranch, Silverlake, even 288. Five, often 10 mph below what traffic is reasonably going — and aggressively enforced by HPD, Pearland Police, BC Sheriff’s department, and the occasional DPS trooper. It’s quite obvious — when you cross into the Pearland city limits and the speed limit on the same major road jumps by 10 mph. Sure seems to be making somebody a lot of money. Not from me, I’ve never gotten a ticket.”
7. HOT Lanes. “The High Occupany Toll Lanes introduced to 3 more Houston freeway segments this year are often hailed as great revenue generaters. But they also seem to generate traffic complications too. You’re expected to zip into a special lane at 70 mph in order to pay the toll and then hope that the person that was going 71 mph right behind you and at half a car’s length away is then going to let you back in? Really? If you’re willing to pay the toll — or enough other people are — the HOT lanes will afford you special achievement in beating traffic. But to me, they’re also a celebration of waste, inefficiency, and inequality on our roads.”
8. Ella Blvd. between 43rd St. and Loop 610. “Call it the ‘Boomtown crush.’ With the recent growth of Oak Forest, Garden Oaks, Shepherd Park Plaza, and Candlelight Plaza, this stretch of road has become impassable at certain times of the day. Is it the increase in people, or the increase in fast food establishments to feed those people? Ever headed north on Ella at 34th? Fugetaboutit. You will be held up by the seemingly permanent supply of stopped cars turning into Shipley’s Donuts, who completely block the right lane. Are any other roads in town experiencing these kinds of growing pains?”
9. Private Traffic Cops. “Throughout the Galleria at rush hour, off-duty cops hired by office buildings stop traffic so people can pull out of lots and garages, causing huge backups through multiple intersections on the main roads. Why is this even allowed?”
Which one of these nominees deserves to break through and win this award? The voting line starts here!
- How To Vote in the 2012 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate [Swamplot]
- Swamplot Awards Ballots 2012 [Swamplot]
Photos: Candace Garcia (West Alabama reverse lane, I-10 exit); Patrick Feller (bridge [license]); Nancy Sarnoff/Houston Chronicle (Bissonnet sign and cars); Jack Shaw/Houston Zoo; Flickr user chevyposey (rear view mirror); abc13 (Southwest Fwy. HOT lane); Flickr users samstreet and lc_db (Ella); Michael Coté (Galleria traffic [license]) and Mary Benton (officer)