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Highway 59 Still Horrible


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I passed over 59 on Dunlavy for the first time in a few months at evening rush hour recently. Traffic was still as bad as ever I've seen it in years, people backing up on entrance ramps, etc. Was this not foreseen when the rebuilding of the Spur was taking place? What's the remedy, if any?

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There was no remedy, most of the money for the construction was a total waste as far as I'm concerned. All they did was sink the highway into a below grade freeway without really adding any lanes.

This was done to placate the growing affluent population that bordered the elevated 59.

the only construction that was truly needed was the rebuilding of the spur so they could extend the HOV component there. Originally they were going to add a laneon the above ground section. But I may be incorrect.

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I passed over 59 on Dunlavy for the first time in a few months at evening rush hour recently. Traffic was still as bad as ever I've seen it in years, people backing up on entrance ramps, etc. Was this not foreseen when the rebuilding of the Spur was taking place? What's the remedy, if any?

I have it on reliable sources from within TxDOT that there was some funny business going on. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), a reputable entity within A&M, provided TxDOT traffic volume data and projections from which to engineer modifications to the roadway that would help to reduce congestion. Undertaking those improvements would've required taking a few homes on either side of the freeway, and some of those homeowners were really unhappy but really well connected. So word came down from on high that those homeowners had to be placated, and folks at TxDOT modified the projections to fit the infrastructure that could be built witin the same ROW--just trenched--and deleted the originals.

And that's the story of why Spur 527 sucks. There will not likely be a remedy for at least another couple decades.

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I take the Spur every week day and really don't have any problems coming into DT during afternoon rush hour. I think a lot of the backup for the lanes heading away from the Spur (toward Cleveland and 288) has to do with people using the far left lanes that are actually for the Spur into DT to essentially skip in line for their trek to Pasadena and points beyond. I know they put up some plastic dividers, but I think they should make the signage clearer around Greenway Plaza that you can only use the left lanes for the Spur and then put up a concrete barrier to keep the traffic divided. I realize that is probably a stretch for our traffic engineers to pull off judging from other feats of engineering like the one lane exit from 59 S to 610 West, etc.

Better signage and concrete barriers might induce people to stop driving like aggressive children and stick to their lanes. (I'm really sick of people skipping: it's so juvenile.) Traffic might move better even if the Spur construction didn't really add much capacity.

The trick if you're coming from UT or Greenway toward DT is to stay in the far left lane-I'm only usually in traffic for 5 mins and then zip into DT. I do feel bad for the 'burbers, though. Concrete barriers: that's the ticket!

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I think a lot of the backup for the lanes heading away from the Spur (toward Cleveland and 288) has to do with people using the far left lanes that are actually for the Spur into DT to essentially skip in line for their trek to Pasadena and points beyond.

This happens anywhere in town where an exit lane backs up and people go all the way to the end to cut in line - 610 N (West Loop) @ 59 in Bellaire, 288 N @ 45 N downtown, 610 W (South Loop) @ 45 S - and traffic on all of these roads would move faster if people wouldn't cut.

But you are correct that it particularly exacerbates the problem on 59 at the spur because it's the mainlanes causing the problem and backing up, not just a single exit lane. In essence people are using the exit lane to cut back into the mainlanes here.

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I take the same route (my evening commute is 59 N from the Galleria area to downtown), and many days want to blow a gasket sitting behind stopped left-lane traffic while another driver tries to move right at the last minute. My drive home easily takes twice the amount of time as my drive to work.

However, I don't think more signage would help as the typical driver uses the route daily and knows exactly what they are doing, LOL.

I like the idea of a longer concrete barricade to split the 527 lanes from the 59 lanes much earlier. However, outside of rush hour when cars are running bumper-to-bumper at 65mph, it seems very dangerous to have such a solid structure. Outside of HOV entrances, they are usually reserved for splits in the roadway where direction changes are in play. I wonder what other types of deterrents can be put into place that work during both rushhour and non-rushhour scenarios?

For all we know, TXDoT is content with the current setup as it provides two additional lanes for detouring around accidents.

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I like the idea of a longer concrete barricade to split the 527 lanes from the 59 lanes much earlier. However, outside of rush hour when cars are running bumper-to-bumper at 65mph, it seems very dangerous to have such a solid structure. Outside of HOV entrances, they are usually reserved for splits in the roadway where direction changes are in play. I wonder what other types of deterrents can be put into place that work during both rushhour and non-rushhour scenarios?

I love this idea. I agree that a concrete structure would probably be a Bad Idea, therefore I suggest the soft barrier - such as the ones they use at the railroad crossings on Westheimer and San Felipe inside the loop. This way, most people are not going to physically run through one but there was an emergency or an accident, it most likely wouldn't do any more damage than is already done to the vehicle. Same if an emergency vehicle was trying to get through... I don't care if you know the route or you don't. There's nothing safe or smart about power merging or forcing your way over when you can just use the *gasp* NEXT EXIT and u-turn.

They need to put up all kinds of soft barriers at 59 and 610. I hate the punks who jump in line at the last minute. Same goes for the exits at Post Oak and Woodway on 610 south/northbound and the HOV lanes out 10.

Edited by Kirzania
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However, I don't think more signage would help as the typical driver uses the route daily and knows exactly what they are doing, LOL.

Most of the rises in blood pressure that I experience while driving come not from the acts themselves, but from knowing that the people doing the acts are doing them on purpose. I can't get mad at someone who has never driven on a road before and gets stuck in the wrong lane, but I can, and do, get FURIOUS at people who use the wrong lane as a matter of course just because they don't want to wait in line with everyone else. It's very easy to tell the difference between the two.

I love this idea. I agree that a concrete structure would probably be a Bad Idea, therefore I suggest the soft barrier - such as the ones they use at the railroad crossings on Westheimer and San Felipe inside the loop.

There used to be soft barriers between the spur and 59 but they were run over so many times by people driving over them that there's nothing left but stumps on the pavement and a few ragged reflectors here and there. Same for the soft barriers between the Westpark exit onto N/B 59 that TXDOT had such a cow about and insisted be there when the toll road opened a few years ago.

Edited by cottonmather0
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This happens anywhere in town where an exit lane backs up and people go all the way to the end to cut in line - 610 N (West Loop) @ 59 in Bellaire, 288 N @ 45 N downtown, 610 W (South Loop) @ 45 S - and traffic on all of these roads would move faster if people wouldn't cut.

But you are correct that it particularly exacerbates the problem on 59 at the spur because it's the mainlanes causing the problem and backing up, not just a single exit lane. In essence people are using the exit lane to cut back into the mainlanes here.

Your absolutely right, the cutting in line at the last minute only creates the backup. See this hellish site every way heading back home. The other day a freaking Coach bus dove in quickly and nearly created a huge dangerous event. Unreal. :wacko:

In case some of you recall, when it was decided to sink the whole freeway below ground level, I knew it was a bad idea. The neighborhood above raised hell and said the freeway noise was too loud so they won and this fiasco was placed below. The perfect storm. Heavy rains prove it. Place becomes a huge ocean (remember Allison).

The bridges above are nice and the everchanging colored neon lights seemed to have been dimmed out of existance? How many of you remember the news coverage of the people/fanatics that constantly have political sign waving on the bridges? News blamed the protestors but the traffic is backed up anyway from last second cutting in line ahead. The bottle neck heading into downtown? It's a CIRCUS, oy vey!

This was a billion dollar blunder.

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In case some of you recall, when it was decided to sink the whole freeway below ground level, I knew it was a bad idea. The neighborhood above raised hell and said the freeway noise was too loud so they won and this fiasco was placed below. The perfect storm. Heavy rains prove it. Place becomes a huge ocean (remember Allison).

As was mentioned in another post on another thread a few days ago, the 59 trench is actually meant to flood during an extremely heavy storm event. The freeway acts as a detention pond, keeping the surrounding neighborhoods from flooding.

That being said, I am disappointed that the reconstruction of that section of 59 didn't add any capacity other than an HOV lane and an exit to Main Street. I wish that mainlanes would have been added. As it is, the trench contains two bottlenecks in the eastbouns/northbound direction: after Greenbriar and Shepherd, where two right lanes merge into one, and at the Spur, where people try to squeeze out of the left exit lanes into the three continuing mainlanes at the last minute. Not the best design in the world.

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I admit I have a personal interest in making this route safer. Below is what happened to my car trying to avoid wayward traffic barrels shortly after someone smacked into them after trying to change lanes too late in the game!

404236020_3cd508d0bb.jpg

Well at least pleats and creases are in style now!

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What do you expect, Aggies engineered it. The spur is a total disaster! It has many blind merge lanes, its ridiculous, as is the new Galleria super exchange. And everyone knows the reason for traffic there is all the lane cutters, but the Aggie engineers must not get out of College Station much. All they have to do to fix the north bound spur is start the exit at Greenbiar. Done, that would solve it. And what about that shoulder from hell? Do they really need a shoulder that is 3 lanes wide? Crazy.

Don't even get me started on the Galleria mess. All that money to alleviate traffic and it hasn't done a thing to solve it.

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What do you expect, Aggies engineered it.

TxDOT engineered it based upon Aggie projections of traffic volume which TxDOT had subsequently modified.

Don't even get me started on the Galleria mess. All that money to alleviate traffic and it hasn't done a thing to solve it.

The effectiveness of the West Loop reconstruction is limited by the capacities of the Southwest and Katy Freeways. That is different from what had previously been the most impactful problem, which was that traffic was backing up from the feeders onto the main lanes.

Also bear in mind that freeway improvements aren't usually designed to "solve" traffic, but to optimize congestion.

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I like the idea of the concrete lane barriers, but I suppose all it would do is shift the lane-jumpers to the point where the barriers began. It is difficult to engineer away selfish behavior. The idiot lane-jumpers are the price we pay for having exit lanes, instead of short exits off the main lanes. All-in-all I didn't think the reconstructed 59 was all that bad. It backed up a lot, but I really don't think it was designed to eliminate congestion. An urban freeway can't reasonably be constructed to eliminate all congestion at all times - you're dreaming if you think otherwise. I'm sure the designers make an effort to balance the congestion improvement against land acquisition costs and safety issues.

The trenched portion of 59 is certainly the most attractive freeway in Houston, and I love the idea that is functions as a giant detention pond during flooding. I wish it would serve as a model for other local freeways.

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I have it on reliable sources from within TxDOT that there was some funny business going on. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), a reputable entity within A&M, provided TxDOT traffic volume data and projections from which to engineer modifications to the roadway that would help to reduce congestion. Undertaking those improvements would've required taking a few homes on either side of the freeway, and some of those homeowners were really unhappy but really well connected. So word came down from on high that those homeowners had to be placated, and folks at TxDOT modified the projections to fit the infrastructure that could be built witin the same ROW--just trenched--and deleted the originals.

And that's the story of why Spur 527 sucks. There will not likely be a remedy for at least another couple decades.

Once again, NIMBY's at work, trying to ruin things for the rest of us with their selfish motives! Same reason why Loop 610 near the Galleria is only marginally better. Same reason why the light rail will have to take a silly detour so as not to enter the hallowed Afton Oaks.

NIMBY's should move out to the country where nobody will bother them.

What a miracle that we were able to build our magnificent freeway system before all this foolishness started!

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What a miracle that we were able to build our magnificent freeway system before all this foolishness started!

NIMBY'ism was alive and well back when the freeways were first being built, too. The big difference is that most governmental agencies were more united in their support for the projects and just pushed ahead and the media was much less sympathetic to the NIMBY's than they are today.

Edited by cottonmather0
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Once again, NIMBY's at work, trying to ruin things for the rest of us with their selfish motives! Same reason why Loop 610 near the Galleria is only marginally better. Same reason why the light rail will have to take a silly detour so as not to enter the hallowed Afton Oaks.

Speaking of which, haven't heard from our favorite NIMBY in awhile. I guess he's satisfied that it's not going through his neighborhood and isn't as concerned.

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My first post to this forum...

In general, I don't think you can ever build your way out of congestion by adding additional traffic lanes. I would much rather have alternate roadways available (not including feeder roads), especially outside the loop where there are almost no parallel local roads. Dependence upon single roadways make traffic succeptible to delays due to single accidents, flooding, etc - and also less impacted by road repair and improvement projects. The lifespan of "improved" freeways in Houston appears to be fairly short before the next "improvement" begins. Since congestion appears inevetable even after lanes are added, perhaps the money and effort can be better spent on new and improved paths rather than by disrupting built roadways.

Regarding US59, the backup is not due to the sunken road portion, but due to the splits heading downtown via the spur, or via outbound at the loop, and the general flaw of most Houston freeways in that there are never any "thru" lanes anywhere with the exception of the transitways inside the loop. This forces drivers to change lanes at some point, adding to congestion, due to left exit and exit-only lanes. You could have made US59 20 lanes wide between Kirby and the spur, and it would still bottleneck at the exits. And if any additional lanes are needed in the sunken portion (for the critics) there are full shoulders and a transitway wide enough to add at least 3 traffic lanes, if required (look down from the Woodhead bridge and you can see all of the room available).

To me, the need to change lanes on Houston freeways is a design philosophy flaw the the A&M trained DOT designers always overlook. As an example, try driving from the north loop to the south loop on I-45 - you will be required to change lanes at least 3 times to keep from exiting. This is true on nearly every freeway, including 59.

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My first post to this forum...

In general, I don't think you can ever build your way out of congestion by adding additional traffic lanes. I would much rather have alternate roadways available (not including feeder roads), especially outside the loop where there are almost no parallel local roads. Dependence upon single roadways make traffic succeptible to delays due to single accidents, flooding, etc - and also less impacted by road repair and improvement projects. The lifespan of "improved" freeways in Houston appears to be fairly short before the next "improvement" begins. Since congestion appears inevetable even after lanes are added, perhaps the money and effort can be better spent on new and improved paths rather than by disrupting built roadways.

Regarding US59, the backup is not due to the sunken road portion, but due to the splits heading downtown via the spur, or via outbound at the loop, and the general flaw of most Houston freeways in that there are never any "thru" lanes anywhere with the exception of the transitways inside the loop. This forces drivers to change lanes at some point, adding to congestion, due to left exit and exit-only lanes. You could have made US59 20 lanes wide between Kirby and the spur, and it would still bottleneck at the exits. And if any additional lanes are needed in the sunken portion (for the critics) there are full shoulders and a transitway wide enough to add at least 3 traffic lanes, if required (look down from the Woodhead bridge and you can see all of the room available).

To me, the need to change lanes on Houston freeways is a design philosophy flaw the the A&M trained DOT designers always overlook. As an example, try driving from the north loop to the south loop on I-45 - you will be required to change lanes at least 3 times to keep from exiting. This is true on nearly every freeway, including 59.

It isn't true on the Katy Freeway. They designed it well.

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To me, the need to change lanes on Houston freeways is a design philosophy flaw the the A&M trained DOT designers always overlook. As an example, try driving from the north loop to the south loop on I-45 - you will be required to change lanes at least 3 times to keep from exiting. This is true on nearly every freeway, including 59.

Is it really that important that someone driving the length of a highway with the same designation (i.e. I-45, I-10, US 59) within the loop not have to change lanes? Most people's trips just don't follow that sort of pattern.

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A lot of the backup is not just due to the spur splitting off, but also the fact that just a mile further down the road, the left lane splits off again to go to 45, which means only two lanes have to carry all of the 59 traffic. That, plus the fact that 59 also is slow heading north through the 45 interchange much of the time because the three lanes there just aren't enough to handle all of the traffic, is much of the reason why traffic is slow headed north through the depressed section.

I just avoid that part of 59, or plan to allow extra time. Traffic is just part of living in a big city, and I don't know of any large city that doesn't have traffic problems. If you don't want to deal with traffic, move to a small town. But even if 59 had 10 lanes in each direction it would eventually get congested.

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A lot of the backup is not just due to the spur splitting off, but also the fact that just a mile further down the road, the left lane splits off again to go to 45, which means only two lanes have to carry all of the 59 traffic. That, plus the fact that 59 also is slow heading north through the 45 interchange much of the time because the three lanes there just aren't enough to handle all of the traffic, is much of the reason why traffic is slow headed north through the depressed section.I just avoid that part of 59, or plan to allow extra time. Traffic is just part of living in a big city, and I don't know of any large city that doesn't have traffic problems. If you don't want to deal with traffic, move to a small town. But even if 59 had 10 lanes in each direction it would eventually get congested.
The backup on 59 at 45 worsened a few years back when the two lanes entering the Pierce Elevated from 59 were reduced to one. The idea was to improve the traffic flow (and reduce the accident rate) on the Pierce Elevated by reducing the rate of cars merging in.
My first post to this forum... In general, I don't think you can ever build your way out of congestion by adding additional traffic lanes. I would much rather have alternate roadways available (not including feeder roads), especially outside the loop where there are almost no parallel local roads. Dependence upon single roadways make traffic succeptible to delays due to single accidents, flooding, etc - and also less impacted by road repair and improvement projects. The lifespan of "improved" freeways in Houston appears to be fairly short before the next "improvement" begins. Since congestion appears inevetable even after lanes are added, perhaps the money and effort can be better spent on new and improved paths rather than by disrupting built roadways. Regarding US59, the backup is not due to the sunken road portion, but due to the splits heading downtown via the spur, or via outbound at the loop, and the general flaw of most Houston freeways in that there are never any "thru" lanes anywhere with the exception of the transitways inside the loop. This forces drivers to change lanes at some point, adding to congestion, due to left exit and exit-only lanes. You could have made US59 20 lanes wide between Kirby and the spur, and it would still bottleneck at the exits. And if any additional lanes are needed in the sunken portion (for the critics) there are full shoulders and a transitway wide enough to add at least 3 traffic lanes, if required (look down from the Woodhead bridge and you can see all of the room available). To me, the need to change lanes on Houston freeways is a design philosophy flaw the the A&M trained DOT designers always overlook. As an example, try driving from the north loop to the south loop on I-45 - you will be required to change lanes at least 3 times to keep from exiting. This is true on nearly every freeway, including 59.
Welcome to HAIF, good post. I hadn't really noticed before about the necessity to change lanes, but now that you point it out it seems an obvious problem.
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I believe if Txdot rebuilt the portion of 59 from I45 to Spur 527 including the 59 @ 288 intersection and the I45 @ 59 intersection, it would not back up as much, but still not eliminate all congestion as pointed out earlier.

That's still in the plans. In the next 10-20 years, I suspect they'll have to widen the elevated portion of 59 between 527 and 288 from 6 to 8 or 10 lanes, reconstruct the interchange with 288 and 45 and bring the merging distances and lane balances to modern specs, widen the depressed dual freeway section south of downtown from its current 14 lanes to 16 or 20, and add c/d ramps from 59 and downtown side streets to the new tollway being added to 288.

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  • 4 weeks later...
I passed over 59 on Dunlavy for the first time in a few months at evening rush hour recently. Traffic was still as bad as ever I've seen it in years, people backing up on entrance ramps, etc. Was this not foreseen when the rebuilding of the Spur was taking place? What's the remedy, if any?

On a happier note, the trees that were planeted high above are nice to look at as you sit still in the traffic. The real tall gracefull ones are very uncommon to Texas. They seem like eucolyptus trees like the ones you see all around California. Ironically these type of tree's when on fire bursts out the sap which then spreads out the fires on to homes. Guess we will jsut have to wait and see. Oh well back to 59 blunder topic. The pulsatic neon lights on the bridges have just went blah! Check em out. Colors have fizzled out. :D

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I agree the landscaping is nice. Reminds me of parts of San Diego where the freeway goes below grade (there the resemblance ends!).

Just had another advertising brainstorm! since there are large wide panels of dullness/concrete under the bridges as you creep along. I would install very wide side to side panels that advertise the newest car/autos or just any acceptable new products. I mean those ones that are electronic panels that flip on one side to the next. Make it spray paint and bullet proof for the smart asses.

That way as everyone honks at each other maybe a sudden soothing "beach scene" would calm them down. Why not? I bet other cities have thought of it already.

I will start sketches now. I just love the future.

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  • The title was changed to Highway 59 Still Horrible

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