Comment of the Day: Lay Off Those Flooded Underground Freeways, They’re Just Doing Their Job

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LAY OFF THOSE FLOODED UNDERGROUND FREEWAYS, THEY’RE JUST DOING THEIR JOB “Trenched roads include sumps that are capable of keeping the roadways from flooding from ordinary rain events, but are designed to become flooded in an emergency, acting as additional stormwater detention. Every cubic foot of stormwater that goes in there is a cubic foot that isn’t at the same elevation as city streets, businesses, and houses. It is a feature, not a bug.” [TheNiche, commenting on Watch as Unfunded Parks Appear on Top of Houston Freeways Before Your Very Eyes!]

11 Comment

  • Correction,

    They are not “design” to act as detention. They are value engineered to provide flood protection for about a 25 year storm event. Any detention benefits provided are purely a side effect of not want to install larger pumps.

  • They’re designed to become death traps to anyone unlucky enough to be stuck in there during a heavy rain event that ends up turning into a major flood event.

  • Some anecdotal evidence: the submerged section of 59 has not become a death trap in spite of some historically heavy rains over the past few years.

  • @Ss: Yes, the freeways are a suicide rap. We gotta get out while we’re young.

  • It is certainly possible that you could get stuck in traffic in this tunnel and then have water start to rise around you as you crawl through traffic during a big rain event. The folks that are familiar with the work of Charles Darwin would get out of their vehicles and head to the emergency exits to climb the stairs out of the tunnel. What I wonder is whether these exits are also designed to deal with flooding? Or would flood waters just rush down the stair wells and make it difficult if not impossible for people to climb out to the street?

  • @ Old School:
    Given that choice, I’d put my money on the latter. There are too many ways that a good plan can get mucked up in execution (designer, general contractor, subcontractor, actual worker) that the failure will only be discovered by the end user (the panicky driver trying to escape the rising floodwaters in the tunnel).

  • @Old School not only would water certainly be rushing into these emergency exits, but (as was the case during the Westpark mini-tunnel to uptown during the tax day floods) whatever pumps they have pumping away in there add an undertow effect, so in other words “death trap” might not be an exaggeration here

  • mental note, put a life raft in the trunk of my car next to the spare tire

  • You know…more people are likely to die on this section of road by virtue of it **being used as a fucking road** than have ever died on Houston’s streets during rain events. That fact doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t build bigger/better/safer roads or incorporate features into them that also contribute to the public good, such as flood control, noise abatement, or streetscape improvements. I don’t honestly expect that every little thing is going to be done right on a project like this, but the absence of perfection is not the absence of goodness.

  • to the extent that a “death trap” policy can be changed, it should be; if some internet egos are bruised in the process, so be it

  • Are y’all saying “Turn around, don’t drown” is too hard?