In between showing off variousÂ multicolored interchangeÂ tangles, the new flyover preview video of theÂ huge changes proposed for I-45 North and the downtown freeway circuit glides viewers by a handful ofÂ areas where freeways will dive underground — while splicing in some new renderings of the tops of thoseÂ tunnels-to-be asÂ theyÂ could look, if somebody wanted to pay up to turn them intoÂ a park. (The animation is careful to emphasizeÂ once againÂ thatÂ said parks would have to be developed and funded by a source other than TxDOT — and so far, there are no signs that anyone hasÂ stepped up.)
The rendering up top shows the would-be-parallel sections of 45, 59, and SH 288,Â running behind the convention district where 59 sits now — the whole bundle would be pulled down below floodÂ grade and covered up, evidently with concrete if the park thing doesn’t work out. (A clip of just that section of the 10-minute animation is included above; a tiny rendered version of the Cheek Neal Coffee building can be spied along the edge of the freeway, though SEARCH Homeless Service’snew building one block north isn’t specifically drawn in next to it.)
The video also givesÂ theÂ section of 59 from Main to San JacintoÂ streetsÂ the same burial and dressup treatment:
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:
THE ODDS ON A PIERCE ELEVATED COMEDOWN Writing in theÂ latest issue of Texas Architect magazine — which is now debuting a redone website with a new web address and a new all-articles-are-now free policy — Ben Koush surveys the prospects for the raised section of I-45 nowÂ dividing Midtown fromÂ Downtown:Â “While there have been some plans floated around to convert the decommissioned section of the Pierce Elevated into Houstonâ€™s version of the Highline,most people I spoke with didnâ€™t think that was going to happen, simply because TxDOT needs the money it could get from selling that right of way to private developers. Some still hold out hope that at least some of the land or maybe even a small section of the elevated roadway could be made into a public green space.” [Texas Architect; previously on Swamplot]Â Plan of “currently approved scheme” for I-45 rerouting around downtown, showing possible green space: SWA Group
A dotted line runs right along the inside edge of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company’s former roasting plant at 2017 Preston St. at the corner with St. Emanuel St., which was declared a protected city landmark today after starts to the building’s redevelopment by new owners last year.Â The line marks the proposed right-of-way for TxDOT’s plans to reroute I-45 alongside 59 and send the Pierce Elevated out to pasture, as shown in update documents released in September. The 1917 building shows up as a beige box at the corner of Preston and St. Emanuel in the above capture from the project’s interactive online map system, and the seafoam green highlighting to the left indicates the newly planned frontage roads that would run to the west of it.
But the Cheek-Neal building itself actually doesn’t appear to be on the chopping block. The blue highlighting indicating the future path of freeway lanes skirt the western edge of the structure (though they appear to engulf the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen across Congress St. to the north). Moreover, a cross-section through the I-45-59 bundle specifically shows the building in place, with the frontage road to the east and the freeways tucked out of sight below ground level:
If you were dazzled by the wide swaths of concrete laneage and complicated color-coded spaghetti interchange entanglements in the TxDOT renderings released last week — but had trouble comprehending the massive scale of the proposed reroute of I-45 around Downtown — you’ll want to try this second go at it. The state transportation agency has now produced a video version of its freeway-rewrapping proposal, complete with tiny little animated cars and trucks moving along 3-D representations of those new wide surfaces. It’s so mesmerizing, many viewers may not even notice what happened to the Pierce Elevated.
These 5 images from our highway overlords’ exciting imagined future sum it up best:
1. The X-ing-out of the Pierce Elevated (diagrammed above). If the elevated portion of I-45 along the path of Pierce St. goes away, how will anyone be able to tell where Downtown ends and Midtown begins? Don’t worry, a few proposals are being shopped around to turn a de-automobiled structure into a High Line—like public park or bikeway. (Though much bigger, â€²cuz Houston.)