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ToryGattis

The Pierce Elevated/I-59 Redesign Thread

Pierce Skypark or Demolish Pierce Elevated?  

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  1. 1. Pierce Skypark or Demolish Pierce Elevated?

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    • Demolish Pierce Elevated
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Plenty of red meat here both in the article and in the comments. I think the downtown roundabout idea is pretty intriguing, although the years of construction to make it a reality makes me shudder. Could suffocate downtown the way LRT construction suffocated those corridors.

http://www.chron.com/news/article/Here-s-a-roundabout-way-to-ease-traffic-congestion-3836900.php

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Interesting idea. I love the idea to bury 45. Not quite sure about the roudabout though. Imagine a backup - every freeway in Houston that goes through downtown would be backed up. The OP compared this to light rail construction - not even close. Literally hundreds of thousands of people use these highways around downtown every day.

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I've posted this before, but one possible solution to the 45/59/288/Spur mess is to make the Pierce Elevated portion of 45 straight through from the Scott exit past 10 to 610 - no on/off access except before and after the elevated. make the 59 & 288 traffic exit to surface streets for CBD destinations, or travel to 610 in either direction to access 45 n or s.

with all roads forced straight through, that might remove the continual jam at 45/59/288 and move it to the 610/45 interchanges where at least there is room to redesign/expand to handle ever-increasing volume.

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Another thought: if they do explore the roundabout concept, I hope they make it counterclockwise. Can't beat that skyline view coming south on 45N... especially at sunset or at night...

Edited by ToryGattis

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I agree, it is interesting, but an accident doesn't have to occur in the roundabout to screw things up. A sizable accident on ONE of the outbound freeways could spell disaster

1435_ATT00048.jpg

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exactly - that's why you've got to keep moving the traffic straight through until you've removed the bottleneck from the CBD. A roundabout is a 360 degree bottleneck-in-waiting.

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ugh, I can swear that I posted a response somewhere here in regards to congestion on downtown freeways saying that they just need to make the 'mini loop' around downtown the worlds largest roundabout. Whoever read that and then decided it was a good idea, I WAS JOKING!!!

At the same time, they could possibly engineer in some pit exits, and entice the INDY cars back to Houston....

Edited by samagon

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exactly - that's why you've got to keep moving the traffic straight through until you've removed the bottleneck from the CBD. A roundabout is a 360 degree bottleneck-in-waiting.

The solution is a 720-degree roundabout. Two roundabouts, one on top of the other, one going clockwise and the other counterclockwise. If there's a backup on one, then thru-traffic can take the other.

In essence, it'd be the same concept that we have today except with double the capacity on the same amount of land.

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The solution is a 720-degree roundabout. Two roundabouts, one on top of the other, one going clockwise and the other counterclockwise. If there's a backup on one, then thru-traffic can take the other.

In essence, it'd be the same concept that we have today except with double the capacity on the same amount of land.

I don't think that's technically a roundabout - that's just a split deck freeway where each direction is at a different level ;-) But I like it. Easier might be to create some elevated express lanes over the Pierce Elevated - no local entrances or exits, just express lanes for 45N and S.

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I like these ideas, but how much is someing like this going to cost? I mean if we are talking about converting all of these freeways into roundabouts - double decker roundabouts no less - what would the pricetag be? $10 billion?

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I like these ideas, but how much is someing like this going to cost? I mean if we are talking about converting all of these freeways into roundabouts - double decker roundabouts no less - what would the pricetag be? $10 billion?

The biggest cost drivers on recent freeway projects have been land acquisition issues. In the downtown area, building up and down is probably less expensive than building outward. And whatever the case may be, facilitating easy movement of commuters within the downtown area adds to its viability, dynamism, and to property values there and nearby.

That said, 2016 Main probably wouldn't cost terribly much to buy up and take down. And I wouldn't mind seeing the gigantic white cross on the St. Joseph Professional Building go down...with the building if necessary. And aside from those two highrises, there's not very much standing in the way of widening. Perhaps there should be a moratorium on anything more than two stories in height being built next to the downtown freeways in order to protect the easement for future use.

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I like these ideas, but how much is someing like this going to cost? I mean if we are talking about converting all of these freeways into roundabouts - double decker roundabouts no less - what would the pricetag be? $10 billion?

my idea also has the virtue of being a hell of a lot cheaper than other ideas presented here, especially sinking or double decking - just closing on/off access ramps, build a few flyover ramps to get people off before the elevated, redesign the 610/45 north & south interchanges...

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I've been on roundabouts many, many times. They are a novelty but an annoyance also. Also, burying 45 is okay but subway is out of the question? Just shows our twisted priorities here.

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I've been on roundabouts many, many times. They are a novelty but an annoyance also. Also, burying 45 is okay but subway is out of the question? Just shows our twisted priorities here.

this thread is about through automobile traffic, not fixed guideway mass transit.

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The I45 tunnel idea is an old one. I found an old, (seemingly) pro-tunnel interview with one of the tunnel advocates.

http://www.downtownhouston.com/live/qol/I45_Tunnel.php

The question is what prevents this from becoming a gigantic cost-overrun like Boston's Big Dig, and how do you deal with future expansion? (re-build the future expansion freeway on the reclaimed greenspace?)

I'm not against it per say as I can only wonder what it will sound like when I (eventually) run my Maserati cabrio through it at speeds that will remain unmentionable.

Oh, and when someone says they will consider it....

Edited by TGM

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I'm allowed to speak my piece.

you believe introducing a discussion of subways is in some way germane to a discussion of building a freeway roundabout for automobiles traveling on an existing interstate highway? you believe that a subway could in some way be relevant to the problem of several freeways merging in the same spot in the CBD?

Edited by IHB2

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you believe introducing a discussion of subways is in some way germane to a discussion of building a freeway roundabout for automobiles traveling on an existing interstate highway? you believe that a subway could in some way be relevant to the problem of several freeways merging in the same spot in the CBD?

It was brought up in the very first post.

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i vote to dismantle i-45 through downtown between the north and south loops. make i-45 a grand boulevard from the north to south loop. rename it of course. add direct connect lanes around the loop to reconnect with i-45 for pass through traffic. build the university line and other short distance transportation options inside the loop.

....back from la la land: any options to eliminate elevated freeways around the city's core is a plus. the roundabout idea does not sound as if it will accomplish a better urban fabric only help traffic move through the city quicker. why not consider alternatives that accomplish both better traffic control and less freeway "barriers" separating and dividing neighborhoods.

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Once the idea of a downtown "roundabout" is studied it will be dismissed very quickly.

First, it makes no sense to send one direction of Interstate 10 traffic around downtown. Interstate 10 will need to remain 2-way.

Second, you are introducing a substantially longer distance to travel for many vehicles, which in itself translates to more traffic. The shortest path is normally more efficient.

If the Pierce Elevated and US 59 Chartres Elevated are one way, the north side of the loop (Interstate 10) will need to be made much wider, at least double its current number of lanes, to handle the US 59 and IH 45 traffic. This would be costly - I'm not sure if it is feasible.

The cost of reconfiguring the interchanges, particularly at US 59/IH45 will be high. Since that interchange is old and will near the end of its life in 10-20 years, that may not be an issue. But the US 59/IH 10 interchange will also need major work and that interchange is about 9 years old.

Also, keep in mind that the main benefit of one-way streets (such as downtown streets) is to make turning movements much more efficient (no cycle time for left turns) and eliminate crossing traffic. These benefits don't exist for a freeway since freeways are already limited-access.

If political leaders want to solve the problem they're going to have to widen the two biggest bottlenecks downtown: the Pierce Elevated and US 59 between Spur 527 and SH 288, and ensure proper lane balance for the new lanes.

I think it is feasible to widen the Pierce Elevated - the 1960s-era 2016 Main and St. Josephs building could be acquired for a feasible cost. It will take some political leadership to move any improvments forward, and I see lack of leadership as more of a problem than the cost of property acquisition.

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Max, what do you think of a simplified solution like I45 express lanes (no entrances or exits) elevated above the Pierce? Then the 59/288 exit could be re-striped to send 2 lanes onto the Pierce instead of 1 (only one will be needed from 45 on the lower level to handle those exiting Allen Parkway, Memorial/Houston, etc.).

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Since we're dreaming here, how about moving I-45 one block south between Gray and Webster and depressing it instead of having an elevated structure? It would get rid of that bus station that's deplored so much. Then, the old Pierce Elevated footprint could be developed for businesses, downtown living, or turned into a park.

Also, Instead of having 59 NB traffic navigate the 59/288 split and weave to get onto I-45, why not extend Spur 527 from its current terminus at Elgin and have it terminate at 45 instead, providing a direct link from 59 to 45 without the weaving at 288?

Edited by JLWM8609

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Max, what do you think of a simplified solution like I45 express lanes (no entrances or exits) elevated above the Pierce? Then the 59/288 exit could be re-striped to send 2 lanes onto the Pierce instead of 1 (only one will be needed from 45 on the lower level to handle those exiting Allen Parkway, Memorial/Houston, etc.).

More lanes are needed, and express lanes are certainly one way to get those lanes.

One problem is the placement of the columns to support the elevated express lanes. The lack of an interior shoulder on the Pierce Elevated rules out that option, so the elevated structure would basically need to span the entire Pierce Elevated.

A likely bigger problem would be objections from anti-freeway interests to a taller elevated structure.

If opposition could be overcome, an upper deck with elevated express lanes is likely the least expensive and surely the least disruptive option to add capacity.

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i vote to dismantle i-45 through downtown between the north and south loops. make i-45 a grand boulevard from the north to south loop. rename it of course. add direct connect lanes around the loop to reconnect with i-45 for pass through traffic. build the university line and other short distance transportation options inside the loop.

....back from la la land: any options to eliminate elevated freeways around the city's core is a plus. the roundabout idea does not sound as if it will accomplish a better urban fabric only help traffic move through the city quicker. why not consider alternatives that accomplish both better traffic control and less freeway "barriers" separating and dividing neighborhoods.

I agree. The Pierce Elevated, as with all freeways, ripped up a vibrant area. Tear down the Pierce and let people go around, and downtown has a chance to flourish, and midtown could possibly extend into downtown.

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I agree. The Pierce Elevated, as with all freeways, ripped up a vibrant area. Tear down the Pierce and let people go around, and downtown has a chance to flourish, and midtown could possibly extend into downtown.

Can you provide some evidence that the Pierce Elevated corridor was "vibrant" in the early 1960s before the Pierce Elevated was built in the mid-1960s? Unfortunately I don't have photos readily available, but my recollection from photos is that it was mostly parking lots and lower tier commerical establishments. If any part of downtown was vibrant it was the core of downtown along Main Street where retail still existed.

Freedmans Town was cleared out by Allen Parkway Village long before the freeway came through.

If freeways are so destructive, can you explain how Midtown has boomed and flourished as little as one block from the freeway? Can you explain why apartments are being built directly adjacent to the freeway near Dallas Street?

Your response is typical of anti-freeway interests - always make freeways the scapegoat for urban problems, always claim freeways destroy (or in your case "ripped apart"), even if the facts are otherwise.

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Can you provide some evidence that the Pierce Elevated corridor was "vibrant" in the early 1960s before the Pierce Elevated was built in the mid-1960s? Unfortunately I don't have photos readily available, but my recollection from photos is that it was mostly parking lots and lower tier commerical establishments. If any part of downtown was vibrant it was the core of downtown along Main Street where retail still existed.

Freedmans Town was cleared out by Allen Parkway Village long before the freeway came through.

If freeways are so destructive, can you explain how Midtown has boomed and flourished as little as one block from the freeway? Can you explain why apartments are being built directly adjacent to the freeway near Dallas Street?

Your response is typical of anti-freeway interests - always make freeways the scapegoat for urban problems, always claim freeways destroy (or in your case "ripped apart"), even if the facts are otherwise.

I think he exaggerates, but freeways do alter the makeup of a neighborhood when they plow through the middle of it. there's no doubt about it, and there's no doubt that the alterations they make are negative.

PE specifically? it creates a clearer delineation between midtown and downtown, but the bus station on Main and homeless that hang around St Johns have a much greater impact on people venturing too far north from midtown.

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I think he exaggerates, but freeways do alter the makeup of a neighborhood when they plow through the middle of it. there's no doubt about it, and there's no doubt that the alterations they make are negative.

PE specifically? it creates a clearer delineation between midtown and downtown, but the bus station on Main and homeless that hang around St Johns have a much greater impact on people venturing too far north from midtown.

Midtown as it is defined today is a hodgepodge of psychological boundaries. It used to be divided between the 3rd and 4th Wards along Main Street. Talk to the black community and they think that Midtown is an incursion into their territory. And back then, 4th Ward meant more than just Freedmen's Town. The freeways, the spur, the bus station, the shelters and pain clinics (the unsung villains), and the light rail tore it asunder from its old associations and totally reshaped it. It is one district and it is many.

And it may be easy to say that the Pierce Elevated is a barrier to downtown...but I'd argue that the derelict buildings and surface parking lots within the downtown district are a barrier to the actual downtown. Downtown hasn't gotten that far south yet. OTOH, 59/288 became a barrier between Midtown and the 3rd Ward. And that's been good for Midtown. You wouldn't see townhomes creeping across the barrier today if people hadn't felt that Midtown was a separate and insulated district in the first place. Depending on your background, you might see that as a good or a bad thing, so I won't proclaim it as either. Suffice it to say, the placement of a freeway can change a community...but change is not necessarily bad, or bad for everyone. It's just something that happens, a force of nature. The city as a whole will adapt to it, change will happen, and then it will be okay.

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More lanes are needed, and express lanes are certainly one way to get those lanes.

One problem is the placement of the columns to support the elevated express lanes. The lack of an interior shoulder on the Pierce Elevated rules out that option, so the elevated structure would basically need to span the entire Pierce Elevated.

A likely bigger problem would be objections from anti-freeway interests to a taller elevated structure.

If opposition could be overcome, an upper deck with elevated express lanes is likely the least expensive and surely the least disruptive option to add capacity.

Just drove it, and it definitely seems feasible to elevate 4 or 6 express I45 lanes over the Pierce Elevated and plug them to the underutilized, very long freeway ramps near Scott Street (3-4 lanes each direction!), but I agree it will take careful placement of the support columns. I'm not even sure there would be that much resistance from the adjacent buildings since their bottom level parking garages are quite high.

Not sure where to plug them in on the north side, but there seem to be plenty of options. Maybe near Dart street, just before I10?

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What about removing the Pierce and routing all traffic along the east side of downtown on a widened 59?

From a land aquisition standpoint, all you have to do is buy all the blocks between Chartres and St. Emanuel and have a super wide/double deck/sunken freeway to handle the throughput. Much cheaper than trying to buy high-rises and you could probably make a few bucks selling the half blocks along where the Pierce is now.

Just my $0.02

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What about removing the Pierce and routing all traffic along the east side of downtown on a widened 59?

From a land aquisition standpoint, all you have to do is buy all the blocks between Chartres and St. Emanuel and have a super wide/double deck/sunken freeway to handle the throughput. Much cheaper than trying to buy high-rises and you could probably make a few bucks selling the half blocks along where the Pierce is now.

Just my $0.02

Sounds good to me.

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What about removing the Pierce and routing all traffic along the east side of downtown on a widened 59?

From a land aquisition standpoint, all you have to do is buy all the blocks between Chartres and St. Emanuel and have a super wide/double deck/sunken freeway to handle the throughput. Much cheaper than trying to buy high-rises and you could probably make a few bucks selling the half blocks along where the Pierce is now.

Just my $0.02

The distance between the I-10/I-45 split and the I-45/US 59/SH 288 interchange is 2.3 miles along I-45 or 3.8 miles along I-10 and US 59. Adding to the land requirements for such a large and complex freeway such as you propose, there aren't currently very many ramps along the east side of downtown, so adding those from such a complex freeway would probably require more than just a single block of width in many places. And in fact, because there are so few east-west streets in east downtown that aren't truncated by Toyota Center, the GRB convention center, or Minute Maid Park, the ramps would pretty much have to be for Leeland/Bell, Capitol/Rusk, and Congress/Franlkin (each of these being one-way pairs). Polk and Texas would both be messy connections due to bidirectionality on one and the full width of light rail crossing the other. There are a whole slew of buildings that would bite the dust for ramps, including all three buildings from Lofts at the Ballpark.

I'd imagine that land costs would probably weight out pretty close to the same figure, going east or west. Where the value of buildings are concerned, Lofts at the Ballpark is probably far more valuable than 2016 Main, considering how low the condo prices are (on account of the extremely high maintenance fees because the building is in such poor shape). The only thing that's at all valuable along the Pierce Elevated is the St. Joseph Professional Building.

However, if you're talking about a single super-wide/double deck/sunken freeway that's large enough to handle all of today's capacity as well as to remain functional for a few decades, then we're talking about a really big and complicated road. I'd think that the hard costs would eclipse the land acquisition costs...and you have to build this expensive road 65% further along the eastern route than you would if you came up along the west side of downtown. Then consider that of what's left of I-45, you'd probably want to keep a portion of it in place to serve a purpose similar to Spur 527, as a rapid accessway to the western side of downtown but from the north. So that also has to be reconstructed and costs additional money, and you don't get to reclaim that land.

And after all is said and done, the eastern path is a longer commute in terms of distance for most people, so that's just one more downside.

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The distance between the I-10/I-45 split and the I-45/US 59/SH 288 interchange is 2.3 miles along I-45 or 3.8 miles along I-10 and US 59. Adding to the land requirements for such a large and complex freeway such as you propose, there aren't currently very many ramps along the east side of downtown, so adding those from such a complex freeway would probably require more than just a single block of width in many places. And in fact, because there are so few east-west streets in east downtown that aren't truncated by Toyota Center, the GRB convention center, or Minute Maid Park, the ramps would pretty much have to be for Leeland/Bell, Capitol/Rusk, and Congress/Franlkin (each of these being one-way pairs). Polk and Texas would both be messy connections due to bidirectionality on one and the full width of light rail crossing the other. There are a whole slew of buildings that would bite the dust for ramps, including all three buildings from Lofts at the Ballpark.

I'd imagine that land costs would probably weight out pretty close to the same figure, going east or west. Where the value of buildings are concerned, Lofts at the Ballpark is probably far more valuable than 2016 Main, considering how low the condo prices are (on account of the extremely high maintenance fees because the building is in such poor shape). The only thing that's at all valuable along the Pierce Elevated is the St. Joseph Professional Building.

However, if you're talking about a single super-wide/double deck/sunken freeway that's large enough to handle all of today's capacity as well as to remain functional for a few decades, then we're talking about a really big and complicated road. I'd think that the hard costs would eclipse the land acquisition costs...and you have to build this expensive road 65% further along the eastern route than you would if you came up along the west side of downtown. Then consider that of what's left of I-45, you'd probably want to keep a portion of it in place to serve a purpose similar to Spur 527, as a rapid accessway to the western side of downtown but from the north. So that also has to be reconstructed and costs additional money, and you don't get to reclaim that land.

And after all is said and done, the eastern path is a longer commute in terms of distance for most people, so that's just one more downside.

I didn't think about the access isssues. Pretty much anything that is done is going to be hugely expensive anyway, downtown freeways are rarely a 'cheap fix'. It'll be interesting to see what the txdot studies come up with.

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Now that diesel exhaust has been medically and therefore legally determined to be a known carcinogen then it's highly unlikely that any vertical expansion of the PE will pass any DEIS.

They just don't build'm like they use to.

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Now that diesel exhaust has been medically and therefore legally determined to be a known carcinogen then it's highly unlikely that any vertical expansion of the PE will pass any DEIS.

This interests me. Cite sources, please.

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Now that diesel exhaust has been medically and therefore legally determined to be a known carcinogen then it's highly unlikely that any vertical expansion of the PE will pass any DEIS.

That should not be a deal killer. Diesel particles have been the main culprit and now that diesel particle filters are fast becoming common place I think I would be more worried about diesel exhaust from the construction of the road rather than the ongoing use of it.

Edited by TGM

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@Niche

A passing thought in the greater context..

http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/12/health/diesel-fumes-cancer/index.html

That should not be a deal killer. Diesel particles have been the main culprit and now that diesel particle filters are fast becoming common place I think I would be more worried about diesel exhaust from the construction of the road rather than the ongoing use of it.

Good point. I was thinking this is not a bad idea (the roundabout loop) but we probably are quite a ways off before it's even necessary. Hopefully automated cars will solve most rush-hour congestion issues in the next coming decade.

As a resident, the problem with a demo of 2016 Main St. is that it's not a true steel curtain wall bldg. It's a solid, slip-formed brutalist concrete tower that would take a lot of jack hammers to take it down without closing the freeway and adjacent Gray St. Implosion is really the only way and then it would take a lot of cat herdering.

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Another corollary thought is that perhaps one way to alleviate some of the problems of elevated inner city freeways is to repave them with polymer aggregates to improve porosity, runoff, lessen tire wear, noise, bass vibrations etc.

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I know that this topic has been brought up before, but why shouldn't Houston turn the Pierce elevated into the Pierce tunnel? The portion of I-45 that separates downtown from midtown definitely creates a barrier that hinders that part of the city to truly feel as one whole continuous neighborhood. Neighborhood might be the wrong word but I-45 definitely creates an obvious physical and psychological barrier. Why not make the pierce elevated into a tunnel with a boulevard on top of that. People driving through downtown would have the option of taking the tunnel, no lights, just a freeway that turns into a tunnel. Or exiting pierce take pierce and hop back on 45. Some off and on ramps would have to be reconfigured but that's part of the construction. I don't know how this would create more traffic than what already exists. Don't start bashing me, I just want some further insight on why this could or couldn't work.

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A boulevard on top would be pointless, since the freeway takes up half a block, and is bound by one way streets on both sides.

I would like to see development take place above and have a continuous flow into Midtown. I really think 45 should be buried all the way from the I10 exchange, even going under the bayou, connecting the park to the edge of Downtown.

59 hasn't hindered development but I think it would be amazing if the entire freeway ring around Downtown was completely buried.

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@Montrose 1100 You're right about the boulevard being pointless, maybe making a pierce a little wider and turning it into a major thoroughfare.

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You just signed up to HAIF an hour ago and made this post. You must forgive me if I think you're a puppet of another member here.

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A boulevard on top would be pointless, since the freeway takes up half a block, and is bound by one way streets on both sides.

I would like to see development take place above and have a continuous flow into Midtown. I really think 45 should be buried all the way from the I10 exchange, even going under the bayou, connecting the park to the edge of Downtown.

59 hasn't hindered development but I think it would be amazing if the entire freeway ring around Downtown was completely buried.

I completely agree with you there, having the whole ring of freeways around downtown buried would certainly be a great idea. Especially 59, which to me is like a long wall that separates Downtown and East End.

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No one is a puppet, I just decided to finally make an account. I've been coming to this website and many like it for years, but never had the balls to make an account. I'm a 21 year old college student who has a very strong interest in things going on in my city. I was reading the previous topic about the Houston freeways being done and decided, "what the heck" and made an account. It's understandable that you could have made the assumption of me being a puppet after posting so soon.

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You just signed up to HAIF an hour ago and made this post. You must forgive me if I think you're a puppet of another member here.

I have nothing to do with this

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