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Texas Medical Center Tollway Through Hermann Park


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I don't know about you guys but I find it a bit outrageous that they are even thinking about doing this, even if the route would follow the N. MacGregor right of way. IMO, The recent improvements made to Brays Bayou would be a waste if this project becomes reality.

Fortunately, there appears to be a lot of opposition to it.

http://abclocal.go.c...ocal&id=8703131

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The idea of one or more direct connectors to the TMC is not inherently objectionable and would probably be embraced by most people. On the other hand, approaches from the north or east would certainly impact Hermann Park or other sensitive areas of the city. An approach from the south would be the easiest, but lengthy. I doubt that there is any alignment that will be without protest.

On some level, we all know that this should happen. But where and how?

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I'm kind of surprised, as I've never found traffic getting to the Medical Center to be a problem; it's only after reaching the MC that traffic becomes glacially slow, due to out-of-towners and others trying to navigate around.

I wonder if they would consider placing the ramp at Holcombe instead of MacGregor? The route would be south of the park instead of going through it, and Holcombe plows straight through the TMC anyhow.

I agree with this...I'm wondering if TxDOT could limit access from side streets, widen, or build passthrough ramps at major intersections (e.g. - Almeda and Cambridge). Any elevation changes to MacGregor would certainly affect the Brays Bayou trail.

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This is a DUMB idea and it doesn't need to happen. I've lived on Holcombe next door to the TMC for the past 2 years. Like Barracuda said, traffic isn't bad at all getting to and from the TMC.

The ONLY reason to do this is to maximize revenue on the proposed toll lanes on 288 by offering an incentive (hey, flyover a few traffic lights and save 3 minutes of time!).

As for putting it on Holcombe, not sure that's a good idea either. First, Hermann Park actually extends to Holcombe as will the new bayou trails. Additionally, where would the elevated portion end? The TMC technically starts just past the railroad tracks near the Grocery Supply place. If you don't end it there, you'd then have elevated roadway with exits, requiring a lot more space, going by the convent, the old nabisco plant, the northern portion of the VA, the Spires, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Houston Hospice. Sorry, but that's ridiculous, especially because traffic is never even close to being heavy on Holcombe along this section.

While other cities are removing elevated roadways we're actually thinking about placing one in our most historic and activity filled park? Are we insane?

Lastly, I am tired of the inner city being treated as if it's just a nuisance in the way of suburbanites needing to get where they need to go more quickly. thousand dollars people living in Pearland and points South. They made the choice to live there knowing full well the distance and time it took to get to the TMC. Deal with it.

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I agree! Getting to the Medical Center doesn't seem so bad, but getting around it, not so much, especially with the light rail there.

Also, I might get shouted at for suggesting this, but have they considered digging underground? I mean, it is possible from an engineering point, right?

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I'm going to suggest some middle ground, here. What if there were flyover ramps from 610 to Fannin and/or Cambridge that were fed from both directions of 610 with another direct ramp from 288 northbound? Then, one more flyover ramp from southbound 288 to OST & Holcombe.

I think that improving freeway-to-street connectivity to these four thoroughfares (Fannin/Cambridge/OST/Holcombe) could be done affordably enough and with minimal impacts to urban amenities, and that it would certainly help TMC commuters get to the biggest parking facilities more expeditiously. It would also help keep traffic from backing up from surface streets onto freeways, so that'd be good in general for anybody that has to use the freeways to get pretty much anywhere at all (city-dwellers and suburbanites, alike).

This may require some modification to each thoroughfare, too, just to keep them flowing. In time, I think that underpasses similar to those along Holcombe at Main and Fannin could be built that would be helpful (although personally, I prefer the scale of the Wayside & Lawndale underpass). If we did that for Fannin and Cambridge at Holly Hall and OST, and just for Fannin at Braeswood, that'd do wonders. And the same could be done for OST and Holcombe at Almeda.

Like it or not, I think that city-dwellers must understand that we need commuters. If traffic gets too bad and impacts their quality of life, then we'll lose out on employment growth to the suburbs. Likewise, when traffic created by them is that bad, it detracts from our quality of life. It's not something that we can just ignore without suffering these dual implications. If toll roads are a mechanism by way of which they can pay for their own infrastructure, then that's just awesome. The impacts of accommodating traffic shouldn't have to be that insufferable.

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Ok. At first glance, I have to agree that this sounds preposterous, but the news story is just about completely useless. Show me a map. If the north McGregor connection jumps Almeda before immediately diving into N. McGregor... Ok. If it dives straight across the golf course and zoo before aborting into Fannin, then I think there's an issue. 75 comments total is not even a useful number. Something like 100k people work in the medical center. I could get 75 to have an opinion if I stood at the intersection of McGregor and 288 and had a "I'm poor and hungry, lets boycott TXDOT sign". Let's get some facts. I'm not for the proposal, but this sort of reporting is counter productive. ABC had 2 minutes to fill and took one sentence out of the 288 toll lane proposal and went to town. Lame.

Show me the money! (in this case, the map).

Edited by SkylineView
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I'm not necessarily opposed to this, but it would be amazing if they would run it underground like another poster suggested.

I don't agree with running a highway through a 100 year old park though, if there is a way they can approach from another direction, it would be fine. I think turning a street like Holcombe into an expressway wouldn't be bad.

One thing that I found curious: in the video, they mentioned that TxDOT had the funds for projects like these.

Where are they getting all of these 'funds?' And if they have so many extra funds, why are so many highways in Texas in poor condition? They should focus those funds on more important projects IMO.

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What happened to direct connectors from Almeda to 610 in the original plan they put out three years ago? That seems more plausible and sensible. They can put two lanes in Almeda median, depress them under Holy Hall and OST, to end at Holcombe, or MacGregor for those going to the museums and midtown.

I regularly go to the Med Center at virtually every hour of the day and night and I agree with other posters that getting in isn't a problem. Under normal conditions, there can't be more than two minutes difference in traffic times during peak and off-peak hours to get to 288 from TMC on Holcombe or MacGregor. The only times when I routinely see insane traffic getting into TMC is during spring break or when Miller Outdoor Theater is staging popular shows.

Btw I thing a park-and-ride from Pearland to TMC and downtown will solve much of the congestion on 288 even before the toll road.

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I'm not saying I'm in support of this proposal (I'm not!) but...

Some of you are commenting that it's easy to get in and out of the TMC. While that's certainly true now, I wonder if this is planning for the future. The master plan for the TMC includes nearly 10-15 million more square feet of space - effectively increasing its size by 30-50% - within the next 10-15 years. It's not crazy to think that this would come with a comparable increase in workers, patients, etc. Without sufficient infrastructure, this could lead to a huge increase in traffic.

Again, though, I don't support the notion of using N Macgregor for this purpose. I like the suggestion of using Holcombe for this purpose.

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I will state it again, it's COMPLETELY unnecessary. Traffic flow isn't a problem unless it's Spring Break at the Zoo or Rodeo Houston time... and even then it is completely manageable.

This is about one thing and one thing only; MONEY. You know who is pushing this dumb idea? Developers. Land Owners in Brazoria County. General Contractors who like big money contracts to pour concrete on every surface possible. Engineers who get paid for inspections. AND THE POLITICIANS that these folks OWN.

That's it. Period.

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The bayou tollway is a HORRIBLE idea. Here's an idea: why not add toll flyover lanes from northbound 288/westbound Holcombe and from eastbound Holcombe/southbound 288, ala the "extra flyover lanes" from Woodlands Parkway to Interstate 45?

It even looks like there's space for it (the "exit stubs" just beyond the Yellowstone Blvd. bridge). Then, these lanes will completely bypass stoplights/intersections at Old Spanish Trail, Holcombe Blvd., Ardmore, Plaza, Grocers Supply railroad spur, and Grand before finally coming to merge into traffic at the old Nabisco building there at Almeda and Holcombe.

Problem solved.

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I will state it again, it's COMPLETELY unnecessary. Traffic flow isn't a problem unless it's Spring Break at the Zoo or Rodeo Houston time... and even then it is completely manageable.

This is about one thing and one thing only; MONEY. You know who is pushing this dumb idea? Developers. Land Owners in Brazoria County. General Contractors who like big money contracts to pour concrete on every surface possible. Engineers who get paid for inspections. AND THE POLITICIANS that these folks OWN.

That's it. Period.

In the long long ago, when I lived off of Holly Hall and had morning classes at UH, I would have to put up with congestion along Almeda up until OST, where the signal thinned it out. Using Cambridge as a work-around to Almeda and then crossing 288 using Dixie, I could bypass a lot of the congestion. But...there was congestion, even then. Another bad spot was trying to go outbound on Fannin to get on westbound 610. The at-grade light rail crossing disrupts a right-hand turn and causes backups in the afternoon. A flyover would be appropriate right there.

But this was when the TMC was smaller. I'm sure that it's worse now, even if KinkaidAlum doesn't experience it where he happens to live because the signals have thinned out the volume of traffic at that point. It's nothing personal against him, though. I'm sure that there are congestion points that I wasn't aware of when I lived there due to my own commuting patterns.

I don't think that it is necessarily fair to say that there isn't a problem. I witnessed it myself. The TMC has grown since then. It will continue growing. All other things remaining constant, I can't imagine any outcome other than that there should be more congestion.

To that end, I don't particularly care who is backing ideas to improve commuter access to the TMC. I don't have anything against suburbanites or land owners in Brazoria County. I just want to make sure that the TMC can retain its competitive edge and continue to grow within the central city, being a desirable place for as many people as is practical to work and to seek treatment.

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To that end, I don't particularly care who is backing ideas to improve commuter access to the TMC. I don't have anything against suburbanites or land owners in Brazoria County. I just want to make sure that the TMC can retain its competitive edge and continue to grow within the central city, being a desirable place for as many people as is practical to work and to seek treatment.

Agreed. I'll only add that the comments above don't seem to be against opening up arteries in and out of the TMC; these comments instead seem to be against expanding the use of N Macgregor (or anything that passes through Hermann Park) as a main thoroughfare.

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I agree! Getting to the Medical Center doesn't seem so bad, but getting around it, not so much, especially with the light rail there.

Also, I might get shouted at for suggesting this, but have they considered digging underground? I mean, it is possible from an engineering point, right?

My thoughts exactly IronTigre. They should go underground with this...

Also, I find the idea of making this a tollway to be absolutely repugnant. Make it free. Make it underground.

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The Zoo has canceled Free Tuesdays for the rest of the summer. Apparently there was an incident on 6/5 when many thousands of people came to free zoo day, and they were blocking access to Ben Taub and other hospitals.

http://houston.culturemap.com/newsdetail/06-18-12-houston-zoo-suspends-free-tuesdays-in-wake-of-massive-swarming-summer-crowd/?utm_source=sf_facebook

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Well, let me just start off by saying I don't see any real need for this. MacGregor isn't that bad.

However, I don't think most people realize where they're wanting to put this and I can actually see that maybe this was the plan all along. The new MacGregor past Almeda was pushed further south and the walking trail next to the golf course was pushed further north. It looks like they are wanting to put this toll way between the two (I think they said elevated right??). Now, not saying I agree with this at all but this tollway wouldn't really affect Hermann at all. It actually would go through a completely cleared section south of the park and golf course.. though it may affect the oak trees near it.. Besides that, there's just no real need for this unless they want ambulances to have direct access to TMC.

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If it was a TOLLWAY, it wouldn't be for ambulances. It would be for commuters who go in and out, especially for the south. With my elevated lanes idea, it satisfies a few key goals:

- it won't disrupt the creek at all

- suburbanites can avoid several stoplights and a railroad crossing going in and out--but they will pay for the privilege

- the ROW exists: even for the actual exit and entrance lanes. Apparently they were built along with 288 but never utilized.

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Wait a second... Is the proposal that a tollway should be built within the floodway of Brays Bayou? That would actually be a fairly interesting proposal. That'd be a fairly interesting concept, adding to stormwater throughput, detention capacity, and increasing speeds while reducing road noise through the area.

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I find it really hard to believe that the Medical Center suffers from lack of access. After all, Main, Holcombe, Fannin, MacGregor and OST are all fairly major streets covering all four directions. And what we’ve yet to see is any evidence that all of these approaches are congested enough that a flyover from 288 is exactly what is necessary to do the trick to ease the purported traffic problems, or for that matter, that 288 is or will be continually congested as a result of huge numbers of exits into the Med Center.

When I first read this I didn’t have any particular problem with the proposal, but the more I think of it the more half-baked it seems. I suspect that the real rationale for the proposal is only tangentially about traffic, and primarily about creating an attractive Med Center “gateway”. This would explain the preferred alignment on MacGregor instead of Holcombe, which after all isn’t particularly scenic. This is the kind of idea that the Medical Center honchos love, and being able to claim to solve (seemingly non-existent) traffic problems makes it all that much an easier sell.

I would even be willing to bet that if the flyover lanes are built, that section of MacGregor through Hermann Park will be renamed “TMC Parkway”. You saw it here first.

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I find it really hard to believe that the Medical Center suffers from lack of access. After all, Main, Holcombe, Fannin, MacGregor and OST are all fairly major streets covering all four directions. And what we’ve yet to see is any evidence that all of these approaches are congested enough that a flyover from 288 is exactly what is necessary to do the trick to ease the purported traffic problems, or for that matter, that 288 is or will be continually congested as a result of huge numbers of exits into the Med Center.

I've never had occasion to be caught in congestion on the Woodlands Parkway in the morning, but I am satisfied that it exists because people tell me it does. Consequently, I am hesitant to second-guess efforts (or at least the preference) to alleviate the congestion. So, I just told you that congestion is an issue. I described where and how; it is a problem in some places, not as much in others. That right there is evidence that congestion exists. It can be hard for a fashionable affluent opinion-leading city-dweller to even notice it; those people just aren't going to live near the Astrodome or along other inconvenient approaches; but that doesn't mean anything, either. From your response, I am led to believe that either you did not read through the thread before commenting or you simply do not trust me.

Either way, that's asinine. And especially considering that this would be a toll facility paid for with user fees! If externalities are not your concern and people are willing to put their money where their mouth is, then get out of the way.

Edited by TheNiche
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Traffic flow in and out of the TMC isn't an issue despite what Niche is trying to claim. Sure, the Med Center is bigger now that it was before, but it's also more spread out (new South Campus, the move of the UT dental school, the opening up of MD Anderson's admin tower on the southside of Braeswood, the Baylor Eye Clinic on Cambridge, etc...) and there's a light rail that moves thousands of people a day through the area without the use of their cars that didn't exist back when he wast taking classes at UH.

I've been on every major road in the area at all times of the day and night and traffic jams are simply not an issue unless people have totally unrealistic expectations. Flow into and out of the TMC works just fine. There is ZERO need to add an elevated tollroad extension from 288. None. If you don't believe, go sit on MacGregor at the corner of Cambridge St and watch the flow right after shifts let out. You'd then see the ridiculousness of this proposal.

Again, at a time when other cities are removing elevated freeways from their central core and adding parks (Boston, Dallas, LA, San Fran, etc...) we're actually thinking about doing the opposite? That's nothing short of insane. Hermann Park just went through a multi million dollar renovation making it one of the finest urban parks in America and now this? As Seth and Amy would say, "Really. Really? Really!"

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I just can't believe anyone will support the idea of putting an elevated freeway on MacGregor. For what? I live in Brazoria County and drive to either TMC or Hermann Park 6 or 7 days a week - traffic into TMC from Holcombe or MacGregor just doesn't exist. A ramp into south TMC may be good for workers to save a minute when driving to and from work but I don't see people paying 1 or 2 dollars to ride a tollway and pay 12 more dollars to park when they can park for less or free and ride the train in, for 1.25 or free.

Heck they can 'improve' traffic flow into TMC by fixing the surface and synchronizing the lights on Fannin, Knight, Cambridge, Almeda, and Holcombe but they choose an elevated tollway right between a golf course and walking trail on one side, and a biking trail and scenic bayou on the other, in a park that stands tall among the best urban parks in the US.

Houston! We have a problem.

Edited by CoolBuddy06
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TxDOT certainly could use those funds for something better. There are much more urgent projects in the Houston area IMO.

Oh, and not all toll roads pay for themselves, even with the tolls. In fact, most don't. The Sam Houston tollway does IIRC, but the Hardy Toll Road doesn't.

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Traffic flow in and out of the TMC isn't an issue despite what Niche is trying to claim. Sure, the Med Center is bigger now that it was before, but it's also more spread out (new South Campus, the move of the UT dental school, the opening up of MD Anderson's admin tower on the southside of Braeswood, the Baylor Eye Clinic on Cambridge, etc...) and there's a light rail that moves thousands of people a day through the area without the use of their cars that didn't exist back when he wast taking classes at UH.

I've been on every major road in the area at all times of the day and night and traffic jams are simply not an issue unless people have totally unrealistic expectations. Flow into and out of the TMC works just fine. There is ZERO need to add an elevated tollroad extension from 288. None. If you don't believe, go sit on MacGregor at the corner of Cambridge St and watch the flow right after shifts let out. You'd then see the ridiculousness of this proposal.

Again, at a time when other cities are removing elevated freeways from their central core and adding parks (Boston, Dallas, LA, San Fran, etc...) we're actually thinking about doing the opposite? That's nothing short of insane. Hermann Park just went through a multi million dollar renovation making it one of the finest urban parks in America and now this? As Seth and Amy would say, "Really. Really? Really!"

I would respectfully disagree. There was congestion. The TMC has grown since then (both up and out). Aside from the Cambridge bridge, there are no new roads. (To be clear, I lived there both during the construction of light rail and after it began operating.) Therefore, I would think that there should be more congestion. This logic should be fairly straightforward.

Perhaps our disagreement relates to what is a reasonable or unreasonable amount of congestion. To that end, I would suggest that an unreasonable amount of congestion exists when people caught in the congestion become willing to pay out of their own pockets for infrastructure to abate congestion and the externalities generated by that infrastructure. I would think that the value of the externality caused by cutting through Hermann Park would be extraordinary and insurmountable, however (instead of going on a tirade against developers and commuters, the 'nefarious other') I am suggesting alternative alignments (to an alignment that none of us has actually seen).

TxDOT certainly could use those funds for something better. There are much more urgent projects in the Houston area IMO.

By statute, neither TxDOT or any other transportation agency can be granted revenues generated from a toll road except to the extent that HCTRA can quantify that a third-party agency's project would improve the marketability of the toll road such that it would generate additional revenue in excess of the revenue signed over to the other transportation agency.

HCTRA is also not as limited in terms of their budget because they use revenue-backed bond financing to pay for the up-front capital costs. TxDOT does not have that option, and so their budget is far more constrained and their priorities must reflect that.

Oh, and not all toll roads pay for themselves, even with the tolls. In fact, most don't. The Sam Houston tollway does IIRC, but the Hardy Toll Road doesn't.

HCTRA has learned a thing or two about the folly of building spokes that parallel easy alternatives. It's true that they are not infallible, but that is a criticism that would apply to any transportation agency. The possibility of making an error in judgment is not an excuse to give up on the development of Houston's infrastructure.

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By statute, neither TxDOT or any other transportation agency can be granted revenues generated from a toll road except to the extent that HCTRA can quantify that a third-party agency's project would improve the marketability of the toll road such that it would generate additional revenue in excess of the revenue signed over to the other transportation agency.

HCTRA is also not as limited in terms of their budget because they use revenue-backed bond financing to pay for the up-front capital costs. TxDOT does not have that option, and so their budget is far more constrained and their priorities must reflect that.

Wait a sec, I'm confused then. It was my understanding that TxDOT would be building this projecct. IIRC, in the video there was a TxDOT spokesperson, so I assumed that they would be building this. Are they just coordinating with HCTRA and building it with funding from HCTRA?

EDIT: Well after re-reading the article it clearly sais that TxDOT alloted funds for toll road projects in the Houston area. So I am still wondering why they would agree to allot those funds if 1) there are more important non-tollway projects in the Houston area and 2) HCTRA is making millions off of the Sam Houston tollway. Shouldn't they have enough funds?

HCTRA has learned a thing or two about the folly of building spokes that parallel easy alternatives. It's true that they are not infallible, but that is a criticism that would apply to any transportation agency. The possibility of making an error in judgment is not an excuse to give up on the development of Houston's infrastructure.

Oh I completely agree. I just wanted to point out the fact that a toll road is not guaranteed to pay for itself, as you seemed to be suggesting. No transportation agency should be expected to make money and such, as they are providing a public service in most cases.

The statement I have bolded reflects the fact that you have an obvious bias towards roads an highways, as opposed to other modes of transporation. You seem to have the exact opposit attitude with other proposed projects ;)

Edited by mfastx
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Honestly, I'm confused about this too. On multiple levels. This was not a very clear article, and it goes against my understanding of toll road finance. (Not that I couldn't be wrong or anything. Its happened before.)

And please don't construe my statement about infrastructure as only applying to highways. It could just as easily apply to light rail lines, water line replacements, or flood control projects. Financial analysts have to make quantitative estimates to justify a project. Sometimes they get it very wrong.

I'd like to see HCTRA changed up a little so that each toll facility is operated and financed independently as separate bankruptable entities, whereby the risk is isolated and obtaining external financing requires the harsh scrutiny of an investor exposed to project-specific risks. On the one hand, I think that that would increase HCTRA's cost of capital; on the other, it would make their analyses more trustworthy relative to an entity that is financially backed-up by the entire county's tax base.

As for referendums, I question their appropriateness in many many circumstances. Unless we're fundamentally changing a system of governance, I'd much rather leave these kinds of decisions to elected officials.

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And please don't construe my statement about infrastructure as only applying to highways. It could just as easily apply to light rail lines, water line replacements, or flood control projects. Financial analysts have to make quantitative estimates to justify a project. Sometimes they get it very wrong.

Don't worry Niche I was just kidding around, hah. You know me, I am generally in favor of all proposed infrastructure projects.

I'd like to see HCTRA changed up a little so that each toll facility is operated and financed independently as separate bankruptable entities, whereby the risk is isolated and obtaining external financing requires the harsh scrutiny of an investor exposed to project-specific risks. On the one hand, I think that that would increase HCTRA's cost of capital; on the other, it would make their analyses more trustworthy relative to an entity that is financially backed-up by the entire county's tax base.

Hmm well I for one believe that toll roads should only be used in situations where there is a lot of traffic. In most instances, toll booths are a measure to control traffic (or so I've been taught). Freeways should be free for the most part, but for high traffic areas, tolling can be effective.

Interesting idea though. If I remember correctly, you are in favor of converting all freeways to tollways? So, in essence, every highway would be their own entity? Interesting idea.

As for referendums, I question their appropriateness in many many circumstances. Unless we're fundamentally changing a system of governance, I'd much rather leave these kinds of decisions to elected officials.

Completely agree.

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Hmm well I for one believe that toll roads should only be used in situations where there is a lot of traffic. In most instances, toll booths are a measure to control traffic (or so I've been taught). Freeways should be free for the most part, but for high traffic areas, tolling can be effective.

I really don't care how much traffic there is. If the cost of the infrastructure will be paid for directly by users and can be externally financed, then by all means, build it.

Interesting idea though. If I remember correctly, you are in favor of converting all freeways to tollways? So, in essence, every highway would be their own entity? Interesting idea.

THAT should require a referendum. But...yes, and I'd even be willing to implement that idea as it pertains to surface thoroughfares. This would replace the gas tax (and then some). I believe that it would encourage commuters and companies to adopt more flexible schedules, spread out the peak traffic load, encourage carpooling, bicycling, walking, and transit use, and the geographic matching-up of workplaces with households in terms of distance.

If you stop socializing the high cost of transportation, people will live more efficiently. But the other part of it is that by defining each segments within the regional Major Thoroughfare & Freeway Plan as individual candidates for toll financing, a HUGE amount of money could be raised very quickly from the private sector. I'd like to see that money put into as an endowment managed by the state and allocated to the localities impacted by the toll conversion on the pro rata basis of revenue. Let the localities figure out what they want to do with the money. Perhaps they want transit, perhaps they want parks, perhaps they want flood control improvements, perhaps they want aid for the poor, perhaps they want lower taxes. Whatever. Different parts of Texas have different priorities; it should be up to them.

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THAT should require a referendum. But...yes, and I'd even be willing to implement that idea as it pertains to surface thoroughfares. This would replace the gas tax (and then some). I believe that it would encourage commuters and companies to adopt more flexible schedules, spread out the peak traffic load, encourage carpooling, bicycling, walking, and transit use, and the geographic matching-up of workplaces with households in terms of distance.

I'd bet that there will be a TON of opposition to that idea. People won't like the idea of paying tolls pretty much every major street they drive on.

On the plus side, you're right that would really change our car oriented culture in the city, encouraging more pedestrian friendly development, transit use, and other positive externalities.

If you stop socializing the high cost of transportation, people will live more efficiently. But the other part of it is that by defining each segments within the regional Major Thoroughfare & Freeway Plan as individual candidates for toll financing, a HUGE amount of money could be raised very quickly from the private sector. I'd like to see that money put into as an endowment managed by the state and allocated to the localities impacted by the toll conversion on the pro rata basis of revenue. Let the localities figure out what they want to do with the money. Perhaps they want transit, perhaps they want parks, perhaps they want flood control improvements, perhaps they want aid for the poor, perhaps they want lower taxes. Whatever. Different parts of Texas have different priorities; it should be up to them.

Sounds interesting, but I'm having trouble understanding where all of this money would come from. Why would the private sector be so interested in funding this? Most sections in your proposal will still most likely lose money, especially considering how sparse most of Texas is.

This could also lead to a divided city (literally). For example, one neighborhood might have good transit, and another one might have good roads, etc. but I wouldn't imagine that there would be good connectivity. Unless you envision entire cities being "segments," there would have to be some type of master plan for major cities.

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Wait a second... Is the proposal that a tollway should be built within the floodway of Brays Bayou? That would actually be a fairly interesting proposal. That'd be a fairly interesting concept, adding to stormwater throughput, detention capacity, and increasing speeds while reducing road noise through the area.

This sounds a lot like the Trinity River Tollway proposal in Dallas. Planned to be built in the middle of the Trinity River Floodplain, right next to the proposed Trinity River Park. It is not expected to get that much traffic and many in Dallas believes it is just one big money grab by politicians and corporations. In other words, its a stupid idea, just like this TMC Parkway.

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It's 5:41 pm on a stormy and dark day. I am looking down at Holcombe, Cambridge, Almeda, and MacGregor/Braeswood. There is virtually NO traffic. Holcombe is flowing smoothly all the way to 288. Cambridge Street is virtually empty (I see 9 cars and 1 METRO bus between Holcombe and OST). The only place where there is "traffic" is at the intersection of OST and Almeda. I've been watching and it is taking folks driving South on Almeda 1 full light cycle to get through the intersection.

And, as for the preposterous notion that as long as a road will be paid for by users it shouldn't matter how little traffic there is or what the side effects may be, we should build it.... well, I hardly even know how to respond. The obvious first response is there is ZERO guarantee users will be able to pay for this flyover. In fact, if there's virtually no traffic at 5:40 pm on a rainy evening during a shift change at the TMC, then I think it would be reasonable to assume this proposal will be a financial dud.

Again, this has boondoggle written all over it. As critical as you have been against the light rail, I should be shocked that you'd be willing to support this proposal. However, your patterns of posting are far more predictable than mine.

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Since there is no coherent explanation of how flyovers at MacGregor and 288 would actually fix the purported Medical Center congestion, I stick with the theory that the whole traffic explanation is a red herring, tossed out there to convince the gullible. Let’s face it, if TXDOT were to come out and say that investing in magic beanstalks would eliminate traffic congestion, you can bet that they would find a sizable portion of the public ready to buy into it.

At the end of the day, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and traffic engineers gotta propose big construction projects (until they die?). It doesn’t necessarily mean that the ideas are 100% serious, but I think sometimes there is an element of throwing stuff out there just to see what sticks.

Remember the proposal a few years back to build a toll road through Memorial Park? I would file this idea right along with that one.

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I'd bet that there will be a TON of opposition to that idea. People won't like the idea of paying tolls pretty much every major street they drive on.

On the plus side, you're right that would really change our car oriented culture in the city, encouraging more pedestrian friendly development, transit use, and other positive externalities.

Yeah, I'm sure of it. This is my pipe dream. The funny thing is that if you replace the gas tax with a congestion-priced toll, then gas prices appear to go down and people spend less time sitting in congestion, thereby lowering their out-of-pocket costs and saving them their time (even before they realize the effect of market-priced infrastructure and begin factoring in the full cost of a commute into their lifestyle). It works out in so many ways... Oh well...

Sounds interesting, but I'm having trouble understanding where all of this money would come from. Why would the private sector be so interested in funding this? Most sections in your proposal will still most likely lose money, especially considering how sparse most of Texas is.

This could also lead to a divided city (literally). For example, one neighborhood might have good transit, and another one might have good roads, etc. but I wouldn't imagine that there would be good connectivity. Unless you envision entire cities being "segments," there would have to be some type of master plan for major cities.

Each segment of roadway would generate a stream of revenue. A regional transportation authority could own it and administer congestion pricing, then, once the process has been established and stabilized and a revenue-appropriate MTFP agreed upon, the rights to those streams of revenue could be sold off to private investors. I'd suggest that those rights be limited to something like ten-year increments, but bids could be solicited for many different terms; we'd sell to the bidder with the highest spread between our forecasted rate of return and returns on treasury securities.

As for rural Texas, if there will no doubt be many roads for which revenue cannot possibly match the costs--at any pricing scheme. When there aren't bidders, the state should yield responsibility for upkeep to the counties. (I do think that there are many rural highways that should never have been paved. Gravel should've been well enough.)

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Kinkaid, why didn't you look over where I specifically identified there being a problem in the afternoons, at Fannin & 610? Why didn't you look at Almeda & OST this morning?

Subdude, since there is no coherent proposal, I stick with the theory that traffic congestion exists in certain places at certain times (as is my direct observation), that that is generally undesirable, and that a study of the circumstances and the alternatives would be worthwhile. Also--I actually quite like the idea of a toll road through Memorial Park, properly implemented...meaning that it'd probably be very expensive, and probably wouldn't fly. It's still an alternative worth thinking about.

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If the area could benefit from better access, then the answer is to create better access to the existing light rail, and put in higher capacity cars. Charge a daily fee to park at reliant, and you ride the rail for free (or it is built into the parking cost) if there is a big enough demand, I'd bet companies would buy blocks of parking/rail for reduced rate and give or sell cheap to their employees.

Hell, lets knock down the dome to build a parking structure for them and create a flyover from 610 directly into the structure. This would reduce the need for direct access to tmc and lower congestion both to and in tmc. It would also keep the current greenspace green.

Otherwise what about a second story on ost? Bottom is what is currently there, top would be the bypass, it could be called ost elevated, or maybe ost viaduct, Houston doesn't have enough viaducts.

Edited by samagon
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one of the nicest things about Hermann Park is there isn't a freeway near it. an elevated, high speed highway from 288 into a corner of the park is an environmental game changer for the area. major fail. maybe we could throw up some 50s/60s era Soviet high rise architecture in the area while we're at it to increase density, walkability, and match the brutality of the roadway architecture...

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After much consideration, I believe this item to be a complete red herring. I think it was tossed into the mix under the belief that SOMETHING about the 288 toll lanes would rile SOMEONE up, and with that in mind, this could be the scape-goat. This will be the one item on which they defer, and give in to the masses, thus ensuring the future of the rest of the project... and giving up something that no one ever really wanted in the first place. Well played America, well played.

Seriously though, given all of the traffic hell holes in this city, this project makes no sense.

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If you look at a document posted for the June 22 Transportation Policy Council meeting, the text "At Texas Medical Center via MacGregor Way" has been striked out and replaced with text "SH 288 To Texas Medical Center"

http://www.h-gac.com/taq/commitees/TPC/2012/06-jun/docs/ITEM%2006%20--%20Attachment%20A1.Candidate%20Projects%20for%20$2Billion%20-%206-20-12.pdf

So it appears the MacGregor alignment is moribund or dead, but it is unclear what the "plan B" may be.

The project appears to be alive and well since the Texas Transportation Commission officially authorized $18 million in funding on June 28 for SH 288 "Connector to Texas Medical Center". Curiously, the from-to limits are blank.

http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/tpp/utp/2012/projects_2b_allocation.pdf

The Commission also funded an overpass for Cambridge Street over Loop 610: "Extend Cambridge Street over IH 610 with bell connectors", $21.9 million

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What are bell connectors?

Bell connectors would normally refer to connections on a trumpet-style interchange, which is rarely used in Texas and not normally used in urban areas.

See the link below and find the word "bell".

http://dot.state.il.us/desenv/BDE%20Manual/BDE/pdf/Chapter%2037%20Interchanges.pdf

But I don't see how a trumpet interchange will fit in the space available without right-of-way acquisition and displacements. I'm guessing eastbound traffic on IH 610 would have the smooth curving transition to northbound Cambridge. Southbound Cambridge to eastbound IH 610 would probably not have a connection.

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  • 6 months later...

TXDOT scheduled a public meeting on Jan 24th at 6pm at DeBakey HS. We received a letter in the mail. Somewhat hoping they make it a big project with ROW acquisition on MacGregor.

Thanks for the info. I was wondering about any public meetings and didn't see anything about this on TxDOT's website yet. I'll probably be there.

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Friends of Hermann Park members and Southampton Civic Club members received notice of the upcoming meeting.

I'll be there. I'd imagine Old Braeswood, Southgate, Boulevard Oaks, Broadacres, and more have been alerted.

It's funny that the Southampton Civic Club members received notice of the meeting, but people closer to 288 in civic clubs such as the South MacGregor Civic Club haven't received a notice. I checked TxDOT's website and there's no mention of the meeting. I had to call the Houston District office to get the info. It's like TxDOT doesn't want to publicize this very much when compared to things like the 290 Project.

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It's funny that the Southampton Civic Club members received notice of the meeting, but people closer to 288 in civic clubs such as the South MacGregor Civic Club haven't received a notice. I checked TxDOT's website and there's no mention of the meeting. I had to call the Houston District office to get the info. It's like TxDOT doesn't want to publicize this very much when compared to things like the 290 Project.

I'm not sure what you mean, they contacted everyone that matters! ^_^

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It's funny that the Southampton Civic Club members received notice of the meeting, but people closer to 288 in civic clubs such as the South MacGregor Civic Club haven't received a notice. I checked TxDOT's website and there's no mention of the meeting. I had to call the Houston District office to get the info. It's like TxDOT doesn't want to publicize this very much when compared to things like the 290 Project.

I live in Southampton. The email was sent by our President of the SCC. It wasn't sent by TxDOT.

Whoever runs your Civic Club isn't on the ball.

I also received an email today from the Friends of Hermann Park.

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  • The title was changed to Texas Medical Center Tollway Through Hermann Park

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