What Happens When You Decide To Redo That Downtown Freeway Plan in Your Spare Time

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DECIDE TO REDO THAT DOWNTOWN FREEWAY PLAN IN YOUR SPARE TIME Purple City Freeway Plan Map captureTory Gattis reports in an update to his weekly column that TxDOT is looking over the alternative Downtown freeway plan put forth by Houston-based blog Purple City last week — to see if it can pull any ideas from it. The report, created by a semi-anonymous Houston-based engineer, includes detailed schematics, along with contextualized critiques of TxDOT’s most recently publicized version of plans to rework the interchanges of I-10, I-45, and 59 around Downtown. The Purple City plan appears to have a lot to offer: It would keep the Pierce Elevated as managed express lanes, while exploring options to make its street level pedestrian- and development-friendly. The alternative plan would require less right-of-way acquisition than TxDOT’s and eliminate left-hand exits. There are also bits about developing a new bus rapid transit line between Bellaire and UH, adding a a parallel bikeway network, and expanding the Downtown street grid. The 13-page report is available here; there’s also a scaled schematic of the entire plan. [Houston Strategies; Purple City; previously on Swamplot] Aerial schematic of (rotated) Downtown freeway alternative proposal: Purple City

38 Comment

  • There are some great ideas in here. Eliminating left exits is a huge bonus. While those of us locals understand them, know when they’re coming up, etc. left exits really confuse out of town drivers.

  • Interesting plan …. if you never want to enter or leave the CBD

  • I’d rather have university line that can eventually hook up to Houston baptist instead of brt station line in middle of freeway.

  • Swamplot needs a “Like” button.

  • Dis-like. All these plans have the same mentality of “what can we do to make life easier for the west side”. East End is growing fast and has developed into a very diverse area. Why kill that momentum?

  • I’m tired of hearing about east end. It’s just a bunch of townhouses that have replaced the prior community. East end’s “renewal” is just a bunch of townhome farms in close proximity to downtown offices. Let’s stop pretending the new east end is a vibrant community with history. And, let’s definitely stop trying to mold all city plans around helping build property values for the townhome pioneers.

  • While still not a perfect plan, this embodies more of a true Department of Transportation plan rather than a Department of Highways plan. Not just because it shows other modes, but because it actually puts forth a better effort to promote and expand street grid and its own design is influenced by the possibility of other modes. TxDOT’s proposal basically says highways come first and are the highest and best option of transportation. This plan says all these modes need to work together and influence each other.

    Just noticed one thing from a preliminary glance that should probably be considered in this plan. San Jancinto St. should connect to Fulton St. in the Near Northside neighborhood. This is on the city’s MTFP and is worked into the Hardy Yards site plan. It would help connect the two street grids.

  • Maybe I’m wrong but I think this plan addresses how TXDOT’s plan would further cut off the East End by eliminating the Polk connection to downtown. This plan would bring it back, which is a huge positive. And commonsense, I think you’re getting the East End confused with EaDo, which is only a small portion of the East End area. The entire East End isn’t a “townhouse farm” but I’ll agree that EaDo is. Additionally, the East End has a rich sense of community that I haven’t experienced anywhere else in Houston. Venture beyond EaDo and check it out sometime.

  • @GL – sorry my comments were about eado, not east end as a whole. Just get tired of the townhome farms demanding millions in infrastructure over establiahed neighborhoods. The town homes may be nice inside but – save for some very well designed ones – they offer nothing of greater value to the community. EaDo keeps wanting development but it’s a glorified crash pad.

  • @Commenter7 – You’re tired of hearing about the East End? Its nothing but townhomes? What about the 2 new rail lines that run through it and the future development it could encourage? How about that new soccer stadium, or the East Village development going up nearby, or the historic Cheek Neal restoration? You want to ignore THIS East End?!?

    As for the plan itself, the mere idea of “Preserving Interesting Freeway Architecture” is so Houston, its sickening. Just as sickening as dressing up the Pierce Elevated to be more street friendly as a way to kit Midtown to Downtown, which is essentially lipstick on a pig. I also don’t like the Pierce Elevated Max Lanes idea itself as TXDOT would just price gouge commuters at rush hour. Instead of preserving the overpasses over Buffalo Bayou, we need to find to better knit Downtown with Buffalo Bayou Park. A cable-stayed bridge or just a unified overhead lane structure with less column supports would do the trick. Coupled with the idea of a new Western Gateway with an Allen Pkwy terminus roundabout could be a total green game changer for the western side of Downtown.

    Quite simply, TXDOT for once has thought outside of the box and offered our city a plan with could dramatically improve our Downtown district with a freeway reroute, removing glorified concrete barriers and reconnecting our center city with nearby neighborhoods experiencing gentrification. For once, we should take advantage of TXODT’s original idea.

  • Fine with these updates, provided the Pierce still gets torn down. Express lanes might seem like a good idea, but they’ll most likely be hindered by limited ingress/egress and often shunpiked. I’d imagine they’ll also be pretty expensive owing to the proposed modifications to the design.

    It’s a good design if you’re trying to center transportation around private auto use, but at some point, that can’t be the primary design consideration anymore.

  • @Commenter7

    And what is Shady Acres, Rice Military, large portions of the 1st Ward and much of Montrose? Do those people not have a right to advocate for themselves either because they live in “crash pads”? Like GL mentioned, “EaDo” is really a small part of the East End; the rest of the East End is pretty damned established and historical (although I’m not sure why that matters in this discussion) but then, you sound like someone who doesn’t like to leave their small pocket privilege. Now go and do something useful like dressing up in white linens or stand in line to eat a $5 cupcake.

  • People who live in gated or otherwise totally isolated town homes trying to get money to develop the community in warehouse / commercial district getting up in arms when called out on obvious hypocrisy = LOL

  • I haven’t yet examined the plan in detail, but I like the idea of keeping the Pierce elevated as managed lanes. The TxDOT plans “merely” involved shifting the highway without adding capacity. As our city grows, the Pierce capacity will become more and more valuable.

  • @Commenter7
    “EaDo” is no more or less isolated or gated that the townhome farms in Shady Acres or Rice Military. They’re basically the same place with the only difference being that one is located in an area of town you seem to have some built-in bias against. [I don’t live in “EaDo”; I live in a traditional home in Eastwood.] So I have to ask: what is your exact issue with the Eado and what are people from there asking for which other people would not? TRY TO MAKE A REAL POINT THIS TIME.

  • @Commenter7 before i arrived there, my part of EaDo was populated by nothing but really bad warehouses from the 1950s with zero redeeming architectural value. my townhome didn’t displace anybody, and i’m not asking for handouts for development. in fact, i pay extra taxes for the light rail lines that maybe one of your more enlightened relatives will use some day. plus, your townhome bashing is downright silly. what’s better? a cheaply built tiny ranch house in westbury from the 1950s? is there a better model for medium-density urban housing that is affordable for middle class families who don’t want to drive to katy? if so, maybe you could invent a new archetype and make yourself some money. in the meantime, i’m happy to live in a townhouse and not get diabetes commuting 3 hours a day in my car….

  • My point is I am tired of people buying in a warehouse district and asking for endless subsidies to build it up. If a freaking soccer stadium isn’t enough to get your area built up, stop asking for more. It just reeks of the government picking eado as a winner over existing neighborhoods. Rice mil, etc, are different because they really haven’t gotten the massive subsidies eado has recieved. People liked the area and developers built stuff there. I don’t think there is the demand needed to make eado anything more than a yuppie townhouse outpost – so I wish people would stop demanding millions of dollars of infrastructure projects. Eado isn’t naturally going to blossom until the Houston economy gets supercharged in the next boom. Deal with it.

  • Uhhh. Rice military is in between two of the largest bits of greenspace in Houston. That get a MASSIVE amount of help from the government. What are you even talking about?

  • Those green spaces have been there for decades. But, yes, that recent re-do of memorial park was an atrocity of wasted taxpayer dollars

  • @Commenter7 your non-sensical bellyaching is a reminder of why we need more evidence-based debate in this country, rather than spewing of dumb opinions. if you were to look a bit more closely, you’d see there is a wide variety of townhouse formats in eado. many are very affordable, not just for “yuppies,” and are well built. it’s also misplaced to blame eado residents for the decisions by harris county voters to socialize the costs for sports stadia. those ballot measures were primarily handouts to the owners of the sports teams, who realized long ago you could manipulate the political process and use the municipal bond market for your own private aims. shame you can’t even identify your real ‘enemy’.

  • commenter7 is right, we should instead be all for increasing property values for the elite that will turn the land that pierce elevated sits on currently into million dollar condos.
    I’d rather townhome pioneers benefit than the already massively rich Houston developers.

  • “I’m tired of hearing about east end. It’s just a bunch of townhouses that have replaced the prior community.”
    Ha! As if this is unique to Eado? Look around, dude.

  • Good points all. Let’s spend another 50 mil to improve eado. In 15 years you can sell your townhomes for a 100% increase in value

  • @C: Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.
    Build a University Light Rail line that actually connects Universities *palm to forehead*. I’m not being sarcastic at all with this by the way. I really am this way when you get me started on the University Line.

  • Is Commenter7 the new Commonsense troll of Swamplot? Also I hate the plan but i respect the idea of using the rail ROW as a path. Would be a good compromise if they could make it underground and cover it with a park system all the way above it. That would increase townhome sales in the area.

  • People, people, please! There are (and have been for a very long time!) residents and jobs situated in every direction from downtown Houston, near and far. TXDoT is a State entity funded by everybody’s gas taxes, whether you’re living in EaDo and working in Uptown or vice versa or something else. It should not be up for dispute whether some cardinal direction from downtown warrants an efficient connection into or out of downtown or onto the regional freeway network. Of course it does. They all do.

  • hang on everyone, let’s not be too hasty with lambasting commenter7. I’m intrigued to know of what 50 million in subsidies eado has received. He stated “another 50 million in subsidies”. That must mean that 50 million has already been spent.
    I am aware of 20 million having been spent on infrastructure improvements (water, electrical) specifically for the soccer stadium, which I wouldn’t classify as a subsidy, but let’s pretend it is, there’s still another 30 million in subsidies that needs to be accounted for. please, help me commenter7, is part of what you consider 50 million in subsidies the improvements by the city for the soccer stadium, and where was the other 30 million spent?
    Maybe you’re talking about the light rail line that has one stop by the soccer stadium? woo yeah! that’s a huge improvement to mobility in the area!
    I can’t possibly account for the monies you say have been spent in subsidies on east downtown, or eado, if you please.

  • Honestly even commonsense has some sense of reality when they are talking. This guy is off in la-la land. The facts are not even remotely in his corner. I mean seriously who in their right mind acts like Rice Military is this desperately overlooked community. Not that there aren’t overlooked areas, 3rd and 5th wards come to mind. But the fact that his mind first jumps to Rice Mil says a lot about him.

  • It seems Commenter7 is an unintentional troll. He’s not trying to rile people up with his nonsense. I think he actually believes what he says but, unfortunately, his sources are the voices he hears when he’s alone. And also, unfortunately, all his voices hate EaDo with a passion.

  • I have never brought up rice military except to respond about it. Keep up the straw man attacks. I don’t think eado deserves all these subsidies to bring it up to what rice military did using only supply and demand. If you want to buy a townhouse surrounded by warehouses, that’s cool. Don’t try to get taxpayers to turn the warehouses into a park and bury the freeway so you can walk to downtown.

  • commenter7: What subsidies has EaDo received?

  • commenter7, furthermore, the txdot plan removes 10% of land from EaDo (19 city blocks out of roughly 190 that make up the area), by removing connectivity between eado and downtown from both Polk and Runnels street, there is a 18% reduction in connectivity between the east end as a whole and downtown. Runnels isn’t a major arterial road, but Polk is a very heavily traveled road in the entirety of the east end.
    This idea that retains the pierce elevated so that through traffic can have added capacity has the side effect of not decimating the land use of a neighborhood, and connectivity of a whole area of Houston. Talk about subsidies…
    Removal of the pierce elevated would simply be a subsidy for developers and land owners that can afford to own a city block near the pierce elevated. Otherwise, you’re not increasing capacity of the freeways for through traffic, you’re not making it easier to manage traffic flow when there is an accident. There is literally no upside to the realignment to anyone outside of a select few people who can afford to buy a city block, or develop on that land, and it comes at the expense of people who can afford to own a townhome in eado, or 3rd ward, or 5th ward.
    but hey, look, the pierce elevated is going to be gone so you can feel safer walking, only you won’t, because there’s still going to be homeless thanks to all the homeless help centers there are in the area, greyhound is still going to be there, so no, no one is going to feel any safer walking from skyhouse to randalls.

  • Commenter7 is right. I know he hasn’t presented anything useful here but we should all just accept the fact that EaDo has been the recipient of countless tens of millions of dollars (probably even more that nobody even knows about) to prop up an otherwise uninhabitable space that exactly no person would want to live in except while sucking on the government nipple. Why? Because he says so. This part of town should be ignored as the people there live in crash pads which just displaced previous homes. However Shady Acres, RM and all the s&!tty townhomes in Montrose are cool.

  • Guys, you are projecting a lot of animosity when all I did was respond to someone complaining about eado not getting attention in the plan. I’ve never advocated for changes to pierce elevated, suggested town home farms in rice military were superior or anything else. But, dang, you have a stadium that was heavily subsidized, light rail lines according to one person here for a population boom that has not yet happened. You want I-45 to be buried so you can walk across a park to downtown. Good lord. What is so special about eado that it gets all these things to entice people to move there? None of the other townhome farms got this level of attention to build them up.

  • I didn’t realize that you were responding to someone with the Rice Mil comment, I’ll back off my previous statement then. Nonetheless, the reason people are up in arms about this is because Eado and the East End as a whole have been severely overlooked in subsidies by the city in the form of the 380 deals (or whatever they are called) and all the other subsidies possible. The only 2 things that’s been done in that general area is the Dynamo stadium, which is a partial private venture and tbh I don’t think most people actually want a stadium in their neighborhood, and the Navigation work, which is nice, but fairly small/local. Compare that to the money the city is putting (or has been putting) into other neighborhoods, like the obscene amount of green space renovation that the Heights and Montrose have seen in the last few years, or the ridiculous tax incentives to build apartments in downtown, or whatever.
    I agree that if every idea people brainstormed about EaDo/East End came together it would ridiculously over the top, but the reality is that nothing has happened, or even been planned yet. That’s why people are jumping down your throat, because your describing a very under served community as spoiled.

  • All stadiums are subsidized to some degree. In the case of BBVA approximately 35% of it was publicly financed and 65% private. (Reliant was 60% public, 40% private). There’s probably a reason (among many) the stadium was put where it is: it’s practically downtown. I’ve seen nothing that showed the local residents were lobbying for it to be built there. Hell, there weren’t that many people there when they built it.
    The light rail has a single stop in Eado. You probably think it’s more but it’s one stop.
    You want to talk about a hostile tone? Look at your first comment. LOL.

  • I like everything about it, except for keeping the Pierce Elevated. Get rid of that thing already.

  • @MrEction: You missed one: Dean Foods (Oak Farms Dairy) received a 380 agreement to expand and stay where they are in EaDo.

    @Guido: There are two light rail stops in EaDo (you forgot Leeland Station).

    @commenter7: There IS a population explosion in EaDo. It’s gone from practically nothing to thousands, and is set to double again if platted/planned/proposed development projects come to fruition.

    I suppose the “rowhouse farms” and “brownstone farms” of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn are equally as worthless as the “townhouse farms” of EaDo?