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MontroseNeighborhoodCafe

Engineer Proposes I-45 Tunnel

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June 8, 2005, 10:12PM

Engineer proposes I-45 tunnel

Heights resident says expansion alternative less harmful to area

By TOM MANNING

Chronicle Correspondent

Houston Chronicle Article

I-45 CONCEPT

To view a Power Point presentation on Gonzalo Camacho's I-45 tunnel concept, visit the Web site at www.camachoassociates.com and click on "Alternative design" under case studies.

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I think I've seen some renderings on this. It would go underground for about 2 miles or so. Then come back up past the bayou. It looked pretty cool. Anyone have a link to the rendering I'm talking about?

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That's an interesting idea. My only concern with tunnels is typically the backup that occurs in them, I have been through both of the ones in Virginia within the past week and the 20-30 minute delays getting through them is not pleasant. However, I am assuming that since this would be a new project, they would gauge the appropriate number of lanes and what not ahead of time.

Who knows if the city/ TxDot will actually consider it, but I for one would like to see a fresh approach taken and if the concept of not affecting current freeways during construction is true, it definitely would be an improvement over the current approach.

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I'm going to guess that TxDOT may not pay much attention to this option, but it seems to me that they should. After all, wouldn't they like to be known as "the agency that built America's longest tunnel?"

My only question is the complexities of this proposed I-45 freeway/tollway's interchanges with 10 and 610. I would think that there would not be direct connector interchanges with the lowest level being 200 feet below the surface of the earth right? If so, I think that will push the costs WAY up--but it would make for probably the world's coolest freeway driving experience. I think that I-45 would probably return to at-grade for these interchanges.

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I'm going to guess that TxDOT may not pay much attention to this option, but it seems to me that they should.  After all, wouldn't they like to be known as "the agency that built America's longest tunnel?" 

My only question is the complexities of this proposed I-45 freeway/tollway's interchanges with 10 and 610.  I would think that there would not be direct connector interchanges with the lowest level being 200 feet below the surface of the earth right?  If so, I think that will push the costs WAY up--but it would make for probably the world's coolest freeway driving experience.  I think that I-45 would probably return to at-grade for these interchanges.

The bottom line is that we can do pretty much anything we want, given enough money. Given the cost overruns due to ROW acquisition on the I-10 project, TXDOT should take a real serious look at this proposal. Whatever they think it'll cost to expand I-45, the lawsuits and ROW expense are going to add significantly to that. Perhaps they should build the tunnel as tolled express only lanes, with no exit before the Beltway, and the current configuration can service the area inside the Beltway. Kinda like what the Katy corrider people proposed for I-10. Or, do two reversible HOT lanes in the median. I commute to the Woodlands from the Galleria for work. Outbound traffic isn't bad enough to require HOT lanes in both directions.

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Concerning the money, I think Massachusetts owes us (and anyone else who asks) a favor. Can you imagine Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry throwing support for federal money to build America's longest tunnel in President Bush's home state and city? They got money for the most expensive public works project in American history (even if it was $10 BILLION--iirc--more than initially estimated). Now it's time to pay up.

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Concerning the money, I think Massachusetts owes us (and anyone else who asks) a favor.  Can you imagine Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry throwing support for federal money to build America's longest tunnel in President Bush's home state and city?  They got money for the most expensive public works project in American history (even if it was $10 BILLION--iirc--more than initially estimated).  Now it's time to pay up.

We owe Massachuesetts for the revolution :) Seriously though, I'm sure if you looked in absolute dollars contributed to the federal goverment, Massaschuesetts likely rates as a donor state. I think it's only when you limit your observation to the gas tax that it looks like they're getting a free ride. This is because Northeast states tend to be more transit dependent.

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I remember hearing that Massachusetts gets something like 86 cents back for every dollar they put into federal transportation. We get about 83 cents. If anyone owes us money, it is Alaska which gets about 4-5 dollars back. Hawaii is also another recipient of largesse, with about 2-3 dollars back.

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No they wouldn't. The park and rides on the SW side are very busy, and a train along the nearby Westpark corridor would be packed.

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No they wouldn't. The park and rides on the SW side are very busy, and a train along the nearby Westpark corridor would be packed.

You're thinking rush hour. What about the other 20 hours in the day?

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what about the commuter rail in LA? is it utilized off-peak? i always have a car when i go there so i have no idea, but wouldn't that be a good comparison?

i know the population and density are higher, but its also very spread out.

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what about the commuter rail in LA? is it utilized off-peak? i always have a car when i go there so i have no idea, but wouldn't that be a good comparison?

i know the population and density are higher, but its also very spread out.

Good question. I don't know the answer, because I've always driven in LA too. But, the problem is Houston roads are not congested during off-peak travel times. No one is going to use rail when it's easier to drive.

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Interesting idea, but 200 feet below grade? How about flooding issues? We'd need some ultra-uber pumps to keep the thing dry. If this plan is done, though, it would be awesome.

"Cost of the tunnel project would be about 25 percent higher than that of an at-grade project, Camacho estimates.

By comparison, he said an elevated highway would cost about 85 percent more than an at-grade project, and a depressed freeway would cost 40 percent more."

This is something to think about...

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Interesting idea, but 200 feet below grade?  How about flooding issues?  We'd need some ultra-uber pumps to keep the thing dry.  If this plan is done, though, it would be awesome.

"Cost of the tunnel project would be about 25 percent higher than that of an at-grade project, Camacho estimates.

By comparison, he said an elevated highway would cost about 85 percent more than an at-grade project, and a depressed freeway would cost 40 percent more."

This is something to think about...

The individual proposing the tunnels said the entrances and exits would be elevated so water could not gain entrance.

If we can build tunnels underwater, then I don't see why we can't build tunnels underground that won't flood. Now, the expense associated with doing so is a big fat question mark.

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Can't, city is too spread out.  They'd be empty most of the time.

Commuter trains with limited stations in the city, like downtown, 610, Belt, and outlying park and rides. I bet they would be packed every day for both rush hours.

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You're thinking rush hour.  What about the other 20 hours in the day?

You wouldnt run them like that. That's what the light-rail network is for. It would be like the trains that run into Grande Central Station: they close shop at some point...In our case the trains would run only during the day. At night, the freeways have plenty of capacity and dont need to be expanded for that traffic time.

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You wouldnt run them like that.  That's what the light-rail network is for.  It would be like the trains that run into Grande Central Station: they close shop at some point...In our case the trains would run only during the day.  At night, the freeways have plenty of capacity and dont need to be expanded for that traffic time.

I don't see the wisdom of building train routes for tens of millions PER MILE to run them 4 - 6 hours per day, 5 days per week. Commuters are better served by HOT lanes and buses. When Houston gets its land usage issues under control, then we can talk about rail to low density suburban areas. Unfortunately, the more the state and local authorities pump into freeways, the longer it'll be before commuter rail makes sense for the region. I'm not holding my breathe, I think Houston will look like LA, or worse (less geographic restriction) before we get decent rail transit.

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With the Katy currently costing almost $100 million dollars per mile to expand capacity by about 50,000 vehicles daily, $10 million per mile for commuter rail sounds like a bargain.

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Screw Trains and screw planes and screw cars. It's all about teleportation baby. get used to it!!

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With the Katy currently costing almost $100 million dollars per mile to expand capacity by about 50,000 vehicles daily, $10 million per mile for commuter rail sounds like a bargain.

Where'd you come up with 10 million? The main street line was 40+/mile. Also the Katy is used for revenue generating uses. Getting to work doesn't count. A lot of goods are shipped through there. Can't say the same for a commuter rail line.

Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see more rail as much as the next person, but I don't think this area will be ready for it, for a very long time. Why? Because of the highway construction. The thing that will make commuter rail viable is increased congestion, and increased density inside the loop. With all the freeway and roadway expansion, we're not getting any closer. Eventually we'll hit a wall where we can't expand roadways anymore, but that time isn't here yet. Given the Texas predilection for funding roads, things will likely get better before they get worse. In 10 or so years, we'll be dealing with the NEW, Re-congested Katy Freeway.

There are already plans on the drawing board to increase capacity on 290, 288, and now I-45. How can rail compete in that environment? Answer? It can't. Now, when the powers that be say "That's it!, we just can't afford to expand these roads anymore, the litigation and ROW expense is just too high!", then it'll be time for the rail conversation. In the meantime, I suggest we agitate for a more efficient land use policy in preparation.

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I would be scared to drive in a 14.5 mile tunnel. I think I have some kind of weird tunnel clausterphobia phobia thing going on. But I think the tunnel idea would be a good thing for the city of Houston, and since I never use that portion of I-45, it wouldn't affect me and I won't have to overcome any fears.

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We owe Massachuesetts for the revolution :) 

Good point. But if you go according to the history boards at the Alamo, almost every southwestern state (NM, AZ, CA, CO, NV) owes Houston a big one thanks to--General Sam Houston. That is, unless they'd rather be in Mexico. Maybe the support of California is better than Massachussetts anyway.

:D

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