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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?

    • Pierce Skypark
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    • Demolish Pierce Elevated
      97


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If mass transit is built on the right corridors there would be hundreds of thousands of riders.

 

You left out the part where you have to tear up all the freeways and outlaw personal vehicles.

 

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Too bad the people on charge won't agree to that either. And evidently you're unaware of rail investment being made worldwide.

 

I'm not unaware that rail investment is being made elsewhere.  It's just that it's not relevant.

 

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The biggest problem with the Pierce Elevated isn't that it exists, but that it's kind of ugly. That can be said for a lot of the freeways that encircle Downtown. If they clean it up a bit, embellish it architecturally and add a lot more lighting underneath (maybe some color?) that entire area would feel more inviting. Plant some trees. Add some vines. The parkway TxDOT proposes is a far worse "barrier" between Downtown and Midtown. Houston can do something creative with an elevated freeway, instead of it being a collection of concrete pillars. You could even get rid of the fenced-off parking lots and put some retail (or something else interesting) under there.

 

I don't think we can act like it's feasible for Houston to begin removing freeways. Houston will probably never be an urbanist paradise. Whenever this city does decide to go for a mass transit / commuter rail system, it'll have to adapt to the auto-centric nature of this town. That means lots of park & rides, lots of buses and accepting the fact that improved freeway infrastructure is absolutely a necessity. The city and state should be looking to do three things with the redesign of the Downtown freeway complex: improve traffic flow around Downtown, upgrade the existing infrastructure to modern-day engineering standards, and improve the aesthetic/architectural appearance of the freeways.

 

Do I think Houston could really benefit from an extensive heavy rail system? Yes. But that's a network that needs to fit the city it's being designed for. We shouldn't be copy-pasting ideas from the Northeast or California, or relying on a few miles of light rail to provide a real alternative to the inevitable traffic situation in this city. Otherwise we'll end up like Dallas, with a ridiculous rail system that doesn't actually take into account the fact that it's serving a sprawling, heavily car-dependent area. I think it's possible to have a reasoned discussion about the future of transportation in this city – car or otherwise – without having to resort to outlandish proposals like shutting down freeways or calling the entire concept of rail an "obsession with living in the 1800s." Houston suffers from transportation problems because of a lack of vision and the failure to come up with a real plan to tie the entire metropolitan area together. That's how you end up with a light rail plan that literally does absolutely nothing to address the traffic situation that is clogging up all 600 square miles of the city! Meanwhile it just makes METRO look bad and gives anti-transit politicians plenty of rhetorical ammunition.

 

Can we all just get along, please? Houston needs its freeways, yes. Many of them need to be widened. But it also needs a real mass transit system that commuters can use when freeway capacity just isn't enough. Roads, buses and rail are all essential to the future of the city. We need to innovate to solve the traffic problem, because Houston is a unique city that has an urban form unlike any other in the entire country. Don't demolish freeways. Don't rail against rail. Instead, think about solutions that streamline the roads and provide a working alternative and accommodate the car culture. If you've ever read Houston Freeways, you should know about the incredible amounts of effort and innovation that led to the creation of Houston's world-class freeway network. That same level of dedication can solve the current problem.

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The biggest problem with the Pierce Elevated isn't that it exists, but that it's kind of ugly. That can be said for a lot of the freeways that encircle Downtown. If they clean it up a bit, embellish it architecturally and add a lot more lighting underneath (maybe some color?) that entire area would feel more inviting. Plant some trees. Add some vines. The parkway TxDOT proposes is a far worse "barrier" between Downtown and Midtown. Houston can do something creative with an elevated freeway, instead of it being a collection of concrete pillars. You could even get rid of the fenced-off parking lots and put some retail (or something else interesting) under there.

 

I don't think we can act like it's feasible for Houston to begin removing freeways. Houston will probably never be an urbanist paradise. Whenever this city does decide to go for a mass transit / commuter rail system, it'll have to adapt to the auto-centric nature of this town. That means lots of park & rides, lots of buses and accepting the fact that improved freeway infrastructure is absolutely a necessity. The city and state should be looking to do three things with the redesign of the Downtown freeway complex: improve traffic flow around Downtown, upgrade the existing infrastructure to modern-day engineering standards, and improve the aesthetic/architectural appearance of the freeways.

 

Do I think Houston could really benefit from an extensive heavy rail system? Yes. But that's a network that needs to fit the city it's being designed for. We shouldn't be copy-pasting ideas from the Northeast or California, or relying on a few miles of light rail to provide a real alternative to the inevitable traffic situation in this city. Otherwise we'll end up like Dallas, with a ridiculous rail system that doesn't actually take into account the fact that it's serving a sprawling, heavily car-dependent area. I think it's possible to have a reasoned discussion about the future of transportation in this city – car or otherwise – without having to resort to outlandish proposals like shutting down freeways or calling the entire concept of rail an "obsession with living in the 1800s." Houston suffers from transportation problems because of a lack of vision and the failure to come up with a real plan to tie the entire metropolitan area together. That's how you end up with a light rail plan that literally does absolutely nothing to address the traffic situation that is clogging up all 600 square miles of the city! Meanwhile it just makes METRO look bad and gives anti-transit politicians plenty of rhetorical ammunition.

 

Can we all just get along, please? Houston needs its freeways, yes. Many of them need to be widened. But it also needs a real mass transit system that commuters can use when freeway capacity just isn't enough. Roads, buses and rail are all essential to the future of the city. We need to innovate to solve the traffic problem, because Houston is a unique city that has an urban form unlike any other in the entire country. Don't demolish freeways. Don't rail against rail. Instead, think about solutions that streamline the roads and provide a working alternative and accommodate the car culture. If you've ever read Houston Freeways, you should know about the incredible amounts of effort and innovation that led to the creation of Houston's world-class freeway network. That same level of dedication can solve the current problem.

Some of the things I was proposing earlier, without saying anything against rails.

 

I don't think anyone wants to call the entire concept of rail an "obsession with living in the 1800s" nor was the intent. With one HAIFer in particular taking an absolute hard-line against the Pierce and believes himself to be a visionary, the "obsession" was just rhetoric mocking the world he idealizes with no freeways and a heavy reliance on mass transit.

 

That's not saying that was called for (despite the idea of tearing down the Pierce with no adequate replacement), but it's a problem. One of the biggest issues we can work with is a metro-wide solution. Houston is more than the Inner Loop, the metropolitan area extends beyond Harris County, and the entire region includes even more detached locales.

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Some of the things I was proposing earlier, without saying anything against rails.

I don't think anyone wants to call the entire concept of rail an "obsession with living in the 1800s" nor was the intent. With one HAIFer in particular taking an absolute hard-line against the Pierce and believes himself to be a visionary, the "obsession" was just rhetoric mocking the world he idealizes with no freeways and a heavy reliance on mass transit.

That's not saying that was called for (despite the idea of tearing down the Pierce with no adequate replacement), but it's a problem. One of the biggest issues we can work with is a metro-wide solution. Houston is more than the Inner Loop, the metropolitan area extends beyond Harris County, and the entire region includes even more detached locales.

I would say the hard line is for keeping the pierce. Proposing that it get torn down gets people up in arms around here.

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The biggest problem with the Pierce Elevated isn't that it exists, but that it's kind of ugly. That can be said for a lot of the freeways that encircle Downtown. If they clean it up a bit, embellish it architecturally and add a lot more lighting underneath (maybe some color?) that entire area would feel more inviting. Plant some trees. Add some vines. The parkway TxDOT proposes is a far worse "barrier" between Downtown and Midtown. Houston can do something creative with an elevated freeway, instead of it being a collection of concrete pillars. You could even get rid of the fenced-off parking lots and put some retail (or something else interesting) under there.

 

I don't think we can act like it's feasible for Houston to begin removing freeways. Houston will probably never be an urbanist paradise. Whenever this city does decide to go for a mass transit / commuter rail system, it'll have to adapt to the auto-centric nature of this town. That means lots of park & rides, lots of buses and accepting the fact that improved freeway infrastructure is absolutely a necessity. The city and state should be looking to do three things with the redesign of the Downtown freeway complex: improve traffic flow around Downtown, upgrade the existing infrastructure to modern-day engineering standards, and improve the aesthetic/architectural appearance of the freeways.

 

Do I think Houston could really benefit from an extensive heavy rail system? Yes. But that's a network that needs to fit the city it's being designed for. We shouldn't be copy-pasting ideas from the Northeast or California, or relying on a few miles of light rail to provide a real alternative to the inevitable traffic situation in this city. Otherwise we'll end up like Dallas, with a ridiculous rail system that doesn't actually take into account the fact that it's serving a sprawling, heavily car-dependent area. I think it's possible to have a reasoned discussion about the future of transportation in this city – car or otherwise – without having to resort to outlandish proposals like shutting down freeways or calling the entire concept of rail an "obsession with living in the 1800s." Houston suffers from transportation problems because of a lack of vision and the failure to come up with a real plan to tie the entire metropolitan area together. That's how you end up with a light rail plan that literally does absolutely nothing to address the traffic situation that is clogging up all 600 square miles of the city! Meanwhile it just makes METRO look bad and gives anti-transit politicians plenty of rhetorical ammunition.

 

Can we all just get along, please? Houston needs its freeways, yes. Many of them need to be widened. But it also needs a real mass transit system that commuters can use when freeway capacity just isn't enough. Roads, buses and rail are all essential to the future of the city. We need to innovate to solve the traffic problem, because Houston is a unique city that has an urban form unlike any other in the entire country. Don't demolish freeways. Don't rail against rail. Instead, think about solutions that streamline the roads and provide a working alternative and accommodate the car culture. If you've ever read Houston Freeways, you should know about the incredible amounts of effort and innovation that led to the creation of Houston's world-class freeway network. That same level of dedication can solve the current problem.

 

I disagree with this your opening assertion. The biggest problem with the Pierce is that it exists. It's an under-performing asset (transportation-wise) that drags down property values and prevents the needed blending of Midtown's residential focus w/ downtown's business focus.

 

We wouldn't need to subsidize builders to the tune of 10+ million dollars to build apartments downtown if we didn't have such a barrier between downtown and midtown. There would be a more organic blending of the two together if not for such a stark elevated freeway barrier.

 

Planting trees won't help property values immediately adjacent to the elevated freeway. Growing vines won't help disperse the homeless that congregate under the Pierce. 

 

I agree that bulling a parkway from Bagby to 59 does something similar in dividing the two areas. That's why I think its a stupid idea. The downtown street grid is more than capable of handling east/west traffic from 59 to west downtown  in the midtown/downtown junction. If we take the Pease/Jefferson and combine it w/ Pirece/St. Joesph couplet, you've got 20 total lanes full lanes of traffic. Taking away turning / bus lanes, that's still 12 dedicated lanes of East/west flow. 

 

I've read Houston Freeways and while I believe that lot's of effort went into building Houston's freeways, there was little 'innovation' outside of the original Gulf freeway. I might give you reversible HOV lanes, but technically that was funded by METRO. Freeways were built without regard to surrounding neighborhoods. That is not a way we should operate nowadays. I mean, what are the tax implications for 13 new and almost total blocks city that would be added to downtown if the Pierce were to disappear tomorrow? What does the cost of re-routing 45 along other freeways come out to when TxDOT could sell 13 different lots of prime midtown/downtown Houston real estate?

Edited by DNAguy

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Those 13 alleged prime lots are probably worth about $300 million, going by the HCAD values of downtown land, and subtracting some for being further South. Doesn't really offset the 2-3 billion dollars to do the reroute and upgrades to other freeways, plus you probably have less capacity overall.

 

The thought of running interstate freeway traffic on East-West surface streets is not rational, and is possibly the worst thing I've heard in years for traffic. Talk about killing pedestrian, train, and other North/South traffic. You cannot take interstate traffic and put it on signal controlled surface streets for any length of  time.

 

 

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I disagree with this your opening assertion. The biggest problem with the Pierce is that it exists. It's an under-performing asset (transportation-wise) that drags down property values and prevents the needed blending of Midtown's residential focus w/ downtown's business focus.

Under-performing? It's over capacity as it is. While I agree that's not the focus, how is that "under performing"?

 

 

We wouldn't need to subsidize builders to the tune of 10+ million dollars to build apartments downtown if we didn't have such a barrier between downtown and midtown. There would be a more organic blending of the two together if not for such a stark elevated freeway barrier.

I don't think the Pierce is the reason why there's needs to be subsidization. It's very hard to get new construction in formerly run-down areas: developers have tended to prefer suburbs because they're cheap to build in, and every downtown in America has struggled in some way or another. If you want to raise land values and make the area nicer, get rid of the bus station. That bus station is the sole reason why the nearby McDonald's has a bad reputation.

 

 

 

 

Planting trees won't help property values immediately adjacent to the elevated freeway. Growing vines won't help disperse the homeless that congregate under the Pierce.

If it's a homeless problem, they will move out. Besides, the homeless problem isn't as big of an issue as it was in the 1980s. Surely that's not a valid reason to tear down the Pierce, is it? Homeless people?

 

 

 

I agree that bulling a parkway from Bagby to 59 does something similar in dividing the two areas. That's why I think its a stupid idea. The downtown street grid is more than capable of handling east/west traffic from 59 to west downtown  in the midtown/downtown junction. If we take the Pease/Jefferson and combine it w/ Pirece/St. Joesph couplet, you've got 20 total lanes full lanes of traffic. Taking away turning / bus lanes, that's still 12 dedicated lanes of East/west flow.

Yeah, but the Pierce also carries north-south traffic, which is why detouring around curvy areas and ramps seems like a pretty poor idea at best.

 

 

 

 

I've read Houston Freeways and while I believe that lot's of effort went into building Houston's freeways, there was little 'innovation' outside of the original Gulf freeway. I might give you reversible HOV lanes, but technically that was funded by METRO. Freeways were built without regard to surrounding neighborhoods. That is not a way we should operate nowadays. I mean, what are the tax implications for 13 new and almost total blocks city that would be added to downtown if the Pierce were to disappear tomorrow? What does the cost of re-routing 45 along other freeways come out to when TxDOT could sell 13 different lots of prime midtown/downtown Houston real estate?

Well, first off. The main part of the Pierce Elevated that everyone complains about takes about 11 half blocks, and throw a few more blocks it somehow divides and you've got about 6 new blocks total. There are well over a dozen surface lots in downtown already, and the most likely scenario will involve surface lots taking over where the Pierce was, and there's a chance that the loss of the Pierce will result in depressed commercial land value. If you believe that the "induced demand" effect will reverse with the loss with the Pierce Elevated, there's even greater reason to believe that, since adding new freeways will raise C land values.

Furthermore, while I agree that 1960s land planning was not the best of strategies, METRO didn't fund the HOV lanes. METRO was created by the state, and those HOV lanes were done with federal transit money, which is why METRO (and bus lanes in general) were given a voice and a compromise in the Katy Freeway rebuild.

Edited by IronTiger

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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?

In keeping with this theme, I sketched up a revised downtown highway layout. Run 59 up the trenched spur to old 45/Pierce, and have the old 45 on the west side of downtown become new 59, which jumps over the north side back to 59. 288 would dogleg over to 59 and have a boulevard option for people wanting to continue on towards the south side of downtown and new 45. New 45 would turn up the old 59 road on the east side of downtown, before jumping over north downtown back to the current 45. There would also be an elevated 4 lane by pass, built similar to Westpark, following the spur 5/rail lines through the east end (highly controversial and they already stopped 225 but if they could implement it along the railroad tracks it might not be the end of the world) to pass all the local downtown traffic on 45, and possibly leave an option of merging directly into the Hardy Toll Road at the north end of the bypass.

All of this allows the elimination of the southern Pierce Elevated, arguably the worst segment, opening up midtown to downtown, while keeping capacity the same on the new 59 (it doesn't really back up like 45 does, so idk that it needs additional capacity), and have the 4 lane bypass of 45 alternate to add capacity to 45 which badly needs it, without creating any new barriers in the area.

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Edited by cloud713

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I remember having the idea of building 45 on the railroad line, if the area hadn't gentrified a bit, that would've been a preferable option in 1997, which could've also entailed widening and straightening Interstate 10 in that segment. Of course, it would've been a massive multi-year project instead of closing three lanes of the Pierce, fixing it up, and doing the other three lanes.

If a private organization sponsored the takedown of the Pierce and financed studies to actually take the load off (rerouting traffic on ramps and Interstate 10 isn't gonna cut it), then I could see it happening.

For the theoretical money it would take to demolish the Pierce Elevated, I would wager I wouldn't be alone in saying that I'd rather see it go to mass transit.

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I remember having the idea of building 45 on the railroad line, if the area hadn't gentrified a bit, that would've been a preferable option in 1997, which could've also entailed widening and straightening Interstate 10 in that segment. Of course, it would've been a massive multi-year project instead of closing three lanes of the Pierce, fixing it up, and doing the other three lanes.

For the theoretical money it would take to demolish the Pierce Elevated, I would wager I wouldn't be alone in saying that I'd rather see it go to mass transit.

Yeah I'm just saying have a west park like (50' wide I believe?) spur/bypass for a couple main lanes up the railroad. Nothing huge like every lane of 45. It would be a way to add more capacity without affecting the other roads with construction.

That would actually be cool/something I could live with if they were able to do it properly.. Keep one half of the pierce (it'd probably be too hard to tear out 4 of the 6 lanes but maybe they aren't all integrated/poured together) for BRT lanes or something.. Eliminate half the barrier while using the other half for the greater good of the people.

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Those 13 alleged prime lots are probably worth about $300 million, going by the HCAD values of downtown land, and subtracting some for being further South. Doesn't really offset the 2-3 billion dollars to do the reroute and upgrades to other freeways, plus you probably have less capacity overall.

The thought of running interstate freeway traffic on East-West surface streets is not rational, and is possibly the worst thing I've heard in years for traffic. Talk about killing pedestrian, train, and other North/South traffic. You cannot take interstate traffic and put it on signal controlled surface streets for any length of time.

And those lots have unlimited potential.

Downtown is the easiest place to get out of because of one way grid streets. It's worth putting people in traffic if it makes downtown a better place. You would've preferred freeways to plow through NYC also

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I would say the hard line is for keeping the pierce. Proposing that it get torn down gets people up in arms around here.

 

Yes, and there is good reason people get 'up in arms'. Proposing such a thing makes no real sense, you provide no actual examples that are in any way equal to that of the pierce elevated.

 

The idea for removal is built on examples from other cities that are in no way applicable in this instance. The suspected benefit is based on examples from other cities that are not applicable in this instance.

 

These other freeways that were removed could not ever claim the numbers that the pierce elevated does in use, from the article that got this discussion kicked off again:

 

As of an August 2013 study by the Texas A & M Transportation Institute, the section of IH-45 through Downtown is ranked one of the twelve most congested highways in the state

 

 

The claimed result of removal would be to make midtown and downtown more integrated and less imposing for pedestrians to navigate. Not sure if you spend time around the area, but I do. There are as many pedestrians walking from one side to the other as there are walking anywhere in the downtown area, so they don't seem to be that imposed as it is. 

 

Even if you assume that removal of a grade separated highway will increase foot traffic, how exactly would an at grade parkway with thousands of cars in an unbroken line (if you look at the same link I pulled the quote above from, you'd see this is exactly what they are suggesting) be better for people getting from one side to the other than a grade separated highway as we have now?

 

And no one that is claiming that there are benefits to this removal has answered a simple question in that why is it that the residents around 45 are more deserving of a removed freeway than those around 59, or i10 would be of a removed highway?

 

I live near telephone and 45, my commute to work takes me down to beltway 8. every evening when I come home traffic going towards town backs up all the way to telephone road until at least 6:30. that is traveling north. on weekends 45 is backed up at least to the split for downtown pretty much all day. 59/288 is also backed up. 59 is backed up from shepherd all the way to 45. pretty much perpetually, maybe at around 8pm is starts to loosen up a bit and allow freeway speeds.

 

So how exactly is removing the portion of 45 that is the pierce elevated supposed to ease the traffic? Yes, it MIGHT make pedestrian activity better between midtown and downtown, it MIGHT raise property use of the buildings in the area to a higher purpose, I can tell you one thing that would ABSOLUTELY happen, traffic would get worse for the entire city of Houston, it would constrict movement and people would eventually choose just not to travel to places that were easily accessible before. Houston needs to be accessible for it to work, and yanking out a freeway will ruin that accessibility, especially if that freeway is one of the highest traveled in the city, if not the highest traveled. Pierce elevated needs to be augmented, not demolished.

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Yeah I'm just saying have a west park like (50' wide I believe?) spur/bypass for a couple main lanes up the railroad. Nothing huge like every lane of 45. It would be a way to add more capacity without affecting the other roads with construction.

That would actually be cool/something I could live with if they were able to do it properly.. Keep one half of the pierce (it'd probably be too hard to tear out 4 of the 6 lanes but maybe they aren't all integrated/poured together) for BRT lanes or something.. Eliminate half the barrier while using the other half for the greater good of the people.

 

Problem is that rail line is heavily used. very heavily. There's no way that line can be removed as the one down westpark was, the line down westpark was no longer being used, I think the last trains to use that was once a year when the circus came to town, they would run up that line to the summit, and all the animals would be paraded across at buffalo speedway.

 

even if this could happen, you would propose splitting one well established community (eastwood) in half to maybe improve the walkability between two other well established communities (downtown and midtown)?

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Now, to at least one realistic idea.

 

They should re-arrange the exit ramps from 45 to 59 (northbound lanes) and from 59 to 45 (southbound lanes).

 

There's the exit right after telephone on the northbound section of 45 for the 'downtown exits and scott street' and the entrance from downtown destinations into the SB lanes of 45. these elevated sections were designed to ease the transition into the spur 5 runoff that now goes nowhere (was supposed to be part of the freeway down 35).

 

So, shut down the ramps from 45NB to 59 NB/SB and build them onto that spur section. same for from 59NB/SB onto 45SB. this would at least ease part of the interchange. it would eliminate people waiting until the last possible second from cutting over from 59sb exit back into 45nb traffic (which does cause quite a stir and often wrecks). It also eliminates people entering at scott who are trying to jog over to the other side of the freeway to get to the 59sb ramp. that's a really short distance to do that in and really slows things down as well. people who want to get from scott to 59sb could easily ride up to the entrance at gray street.

 

anyway, it would resolve the part of the problem with the pierce elevated, which is the horrible transitions from 59 to 45sb, and from 45nb to 59. the lanes on that elevated portion of freeway are horrible under utilized at all times of day.

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I disagree with this your opening assertion. The biggest problem with the Pierce is that it exists. It's an under-performing asset (transportation-wise) that drags down property values and prevents the needed blending of Midtown's residential focus w/ downtown's business focus.

 

We wouldn't need to subsidize builders to the tune of 10+ million dollars to build apartments downtown if we didn't have such a barrier between downtown and midtown. There would be a more organic blending of the two together if not for such a stark elevated freeway barrier.

 

Planting trees won't help property values immediately adjacent to the elevated freeway. Growing vines won't help disperse the homeless that congregate under the Pierce. 

 

I agree that bulling a parkway from Bagby to 59 does something similar in dividing the two areas. That's why I think its a stupid idea. The downtown street grid is more than capable of handling east/west traffic from 59 to west downtown  in the midtown/downtown junction. If we take the Pease/Jefferson and combine it w/ Pirece/St. Joesph couplet, you've got 20 total lanes full lanes of traffic. Taking away turning / bus lanes, that's still 12 dedicated lanes of East/west flow. 

 

I've read Houston Freeways and while I believe that lot's of effort went into building Houston's freeways, there was little 'innovation' outside of the original Gulf freeway. I might give you reversible HOV lanes, but technically that was funded by METRO. Freeways were built without regard to surrounding neighborhoods. That is not a way we should operate nowadays. I mean, what are the tax implications for 13 new and almost total blocks city that would be added to downtown if the Pierce were to disappear tomorrow? What does the cost of re-routing 45 along other freeways come out to when TxDOT could sell 13 different lots of prime midtown/downtown Houston real estate?

 

I agree that the Pierce does provide a psychological barrier between Downtown and Midtown that's hard to ignore. That's why I'd prefer some sort of sunken / tunneled solution, but it seems TxDOT has already decided it's not willing to spend the money (what a surprise). But I don't know if this barrier is a direct cause of everything you attribute to it. It's quite possible it cheapens the property around it, but I feel like that sort of claim can't be substantiated without some sort of study that simply doesn't exist. I'd agree with IronTiger that the subsidy is a necessity because of Downtown's higher building costs and dilapidated nature. The fact that large portions of both Midtown and Downtown are covered with parking lots won't disappear if the Pierce is demolished.

 

Trees and vines are obviously a cheap solution, but they can make a significant difference to the passing pedestrian. The homeless problem is mainly due to the nature of the surrounding area – plenty of abandoned lots, the Greyhound station, McDonald's, and the fact that Downtown and Midtown currently make up an awkward geographic barrier between poorer districts to the east and wealthy enclaves to the west. In addition, the city basically invites the homeless to congregate under elevated freeway structures by simply not doing anything interesting with the space underneath. There are a million different things you could put under there besides asphalt and a bunch of ugly fences.

 

The grid is capable of handling east/west traffic, but probably not in addition to the north/south traffic that I assume makes up the bulk of what goes on the Pierce Elevated. I think most of the commuters on the Elevated are trying to bypass Downtown, although I can't really back that up with any data.

 

I think the book makes a convincing argument that – at the time – Houston's freeway plan was innovative. While there are certainly many, many negatives that came from it as well – like tearing up neighborhoods and ignoring the need for a multimodal transit system – the general engineering of the highways was well-suited to what the city needed at the time. I completely agree that the focus should be on better neighborhood integration and harmonizing infrastructure with the areas it affects. That's why I think so much work needs to be done on the Downtown freeway complex, because you'd be hard pressed to find any other cluster of urban American freeways that is so completely hostile to the neighborhoods it passes through. However, even though rerouting 45 would open up some valuable real estate, it would come at a steep cost to other areas around Downtown that would take the brunt of freeway expansions to serve that traffic. I find a lot of proposals to route things through East Downtown a little unappealing, since that area has already lived with the burden of that elevated stretch of 59 for so long (which is a much bigger problem than the Pierce Elevated).

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LithiumAneurysm the right of it, I think. 

 

Don't remove the pierce, maybe even expand it to allow for more use, but make it more inviting underneath it, better lighting (not necessarily more), greenery, artists, are those fenced in parking lots really the highest and best use of the land? Imagine food truck parks that aren't affected by weather, stalls for weekend markets.

 

The homeless aren't just there because they aren't chased off from the area, there's lots of help for them around that specific area. If they need hospital care the hospital right there is their best choice in the city, there's other helping hand type stuff in the direct area. Would these just disappear if the pierce disappears? Doubtful. so it's doubtful that the homeless would disappear either.

 

Back to the point, Houston was indeed innovative at one time with the building of these freeways, why can't Houston also be on the front of innovation in providing intriguing ways to integrate the unusued portions under the elevated freeways for use by local people? The biggest obstacle I see is providing some kind of safeguard for runoff from the freeway to protect people under it, but something like that must already be done, or else pedestrians wouldn't be safe to travel under it anyway.

 

How awesome would it be to have a swimming pool under a freeway??! No need to worry if you forgot the sunscreen, you don't need it! No need to worry if it's raining, pools still open! Better still, sell the area under the freeway to Schlitterbahn, I bet they could do some cool stuff under there.

 

I think though, that's more of an extreme type example, but hey, think out of the box and someone may see something that's worthwhile, or at least get on a track that leads to a really neat innovation.

Edited by samagon
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Problem is that rail line is heavily used. very heavily. There's no way that line can be removed as the one down westpark was, the line down westpark was no longer being used, I think the last trains to use that was once a year when the circus came to town, they would run up that line to the summit, and all the animals would be paraded across at buffalo speedway.

even if this could happen, you would propose splitting one well established community (eastwood) in half to maybe improve the walkability between two other well established communities (downtown and midtown)?

Why would it split Eastwood any more than the rail lines split it? I was envisioning it elevated along side the current tracks, preferably without removing any tracks/w.e.

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Why would it split Eastwood any more than the rail lines split it? I was envisioning it elevated along side the current tracks, preferably without removing any tracks/w.e.

 

so far as I know, that wouldn't work, railroad companies don't let you do anything inside their ROW due to insurance concerns, and as far as how it would split it more than it's already split, there's no way that the amount of space would allow for the necessary ROW for a freeway, even if there were no onramps/offramps and it were a true viaduct around downtown, they'd need more ROW than exists there currently. 

 

However, assuming that a railroad would let someone build in their ROW...

 

A railroad is bad enough on its own, true enough, but the neighborhood also grew up around the railroad, much as certain areas of town grow up around freeways where the freeway existed prior to the area of town. Adding a freeway to an already established area (even if crossed in the same location with a railroad already) will scar the landscape for decades, just as it has been demonstrated to do everywhere a freeway is built in already established areas. 

 

I am against new freeways being installed anywhere in an already established area, especially if it goes through a neighborhood, even if it is along an existing railroad track, I will always be against it. That I live a few blocks from there just makes it more personal to me and I'd probably dedicate time to fighting it, rather than just expressing myself on message boards, or signing a random petition.

 

Westpark was a very unique example that worked because you removed a railroad that was adjacent to a roadway, and there was a lot of ROW that existed for most of the distance thanks to forward thinking and planning. So you removed one and dropped another right on top of where the other used to sit.

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LithiumAneurysm the right of it, I think. 

 

Don't remove the pierce, maybe even expand it to allow for more use, but make it more inviting underneath it, better lighting (not necessarily more), greenery, artists, are those fenced in parking lots really the highest and best use of the land? Imagine food truck parks that aren't affected by weather, stalls for weekend markets.

 

The homeless aren't just there because they aren't chased off from the area, there's lots of help for them around that specific area. If they need hospital care the hospital right there is their best choice in the city, there's other helping hand type stuff in the direct area. Would these just disappear if the pierce disappears? Doubtful. so it's doubtful that the homeless would disappear either.

 

Back to the point, Houston was indeed innovative at one time with the building of these freeways, why can't Houston also be on the front of innovation in providing intriguing ways to integrate the unusued portions under the elevated freeways for use by local people? The biggest obstacle I see is providing some kind of safeguard for runoff from the freeway to protect people under it, but something like that must already be done, or else pedestrians wouldn't be safe to travel under it anyway.

 

How awesome would it be to have a swimming pool under a freeway??! No need to worry if you forgot the sunscreen, you don't need it! No need to worry if it's raining, pools still open! Better still, sell the area under the freeway to Schlitterbahn, I bet they could do some cool stuff under there.

 

I think though, that's more of an extreme type example, but hey, think out of the box and someone may see something that's worthwhile, or at least get on a track that leads to a really neat innovation.

I still think my "column painting" idea isn't a bad one, with the columns together making a truly unique art experience. Better lighting will help show these columns off.

A night market could do wonders, as well and create a cultural gathering place as well as a shelter from any rain.

Westpark was a very unique example that worked because you removed a railroad that was adjacent to a roadway, and there was a lot of ROW that existed for most of the distance thanks to forward thinking and planning. So you removed one and dropped another right on top of where the other used to sit.

Westpark also had a lot of ROW west of the Loop. I believe METRO still holds the other half of it and can put commuter/light rail there.

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Now, to at least one realistic idea.

 

They should re-arrange the exit ramps from 45 to 59 (northbound lanes) and from 59 to 45 (southbound lanes).

 

There's the exit right after telephone on the northbound section of 45 for the 'downtown exits and scott street' and the entrance from downtown destinations into the SB lanes of 45. these elevated sections were designed to ease the transition into the spur 5 runoff that now goes nowhere (was supposed to be part of the freeway down 35).

 

So, shut down the ramps from 45NB to 59 NB/SB and build them onto that spur section. same for from 59NB/SB onto 45SB. this would at least ease part of the interchange. it would eliminate people waiting until the last possible second from cutting over from 59sb exit back into 45nb traffic (which does cause quite a stir and often wrecks). It also eliminates people entering at scott who are trying to jog over to the other side of the freeway to get to the 59sb ramp. that's a really short distance to do that in and really slows things down as well. people who want to get from scott to 59sb could easily ride up to the entrance at gray street.

 

anyway, it would resolve the part of the problem with the pierce elevated, which is the horrible transitions from 59 to 45sb, and from 45nb to 59. the lanes on that elevated portion of freeway are horrible under utilized at all times of day.

 

I agree 100%. A lot of 45's problems has to do w/ it's terrible exits and on ramps. I'm sorry for not giving credit to the correct person, but i know it's been suggested that the Allen Parkway to 45 south entrance needs to be closed. It's dangerous. 

 

I like the idea of using the Spur 5 sections as 59 on ramps/ exits. It would actually make even more sense if the Pierce was ever eliminated too.

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I would like an example of a nice area under a freeway bridge anywhere.

 

How about the Galata Bridge in Istanbul?  I thought you said elsewhere you've been to Istanbul...

 

galata_bridge.png

 

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How about the Galata Bridge in Istanbul? I thought you said elsewhere you've been to Istanbul...

galata_bridge.png

I remember that. Being surrounded by water makes a huge difference.

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Don't remove the pierce, maybe even expand it to allow for more use, but make it more inviting underneath it, better lighting (not necessarily more), greenery, artists, are those fenced in parking lots really the highest and best use of the land? Imagine food truck parks that aren't affected by weather, stalls for weekend markets.

 

Haha I actually had this exact idea. Open it up as a pedestrian space and line it with food trucks and other stalls. I know Houston has a food truck park already but it's not much more than a parking lot. Wouldn't it be cool if Houston had a food truck alley under the Pierce Elevated, with picnic benches and other stuff? It'd be a cheap and easy way to turn a sketchy stretch of parking lots into a Downtown attraction that represents a little bit of the city's culture.

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Wouldn't it, at the very least, be courteous to acknowledge that an example that you requested, was provided? I don't believe there were any stipulations given in your original statement, as to walkability, the freeway's immediate surroundIngs, or industry established.

I'd think that's only right, Slick Vik.

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I would like an example of a nice area under a freeway bridge anywhere.

 

How about the Galata Bridge in Istanbul?  I thought you said elsewhere you've been to Istanbul...

 

 

I like it. Great example that just solidifies an even better idea.

I was thinking a little more about this as I was harrowing my way onto 45 this afternoon, why stop at just closing Allen Pkwy entrance? Close all entry and exit points between 59 and 10. Make it a full on downtown viaduct.

In addition to the changes to spur 5, Maybe even close the 59 to 45 entries, make it 2 lanes NB, and 4 sb. Cheap solution. They'd need to make another lane on 59 north and i10 west to accommodate the traffic though. The length of additional travel from 59-10 to get around Houston is just less than a mile...

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Now, to at least one realistic idea.

 

They should re-arrange the exit ramps from 45 to 59 (northbound lanes) and from 59 to 45 (southbound lanes).

 

There's the exit right after telephone on the northbound section of 45 for the 'downtown exits and scott street' and the entrance from downtown destinations into the SB lanes of 45. these elevated sections were designed to ease the transition into the spur 5 runoff that now goes nowhere (was supposed to be part of the freeway down 35).

 

So, shut down the ramps from 45NB to 59 NB/SB and build them onto that spur section. same for from 59NB/SB onto 45SB. this would at least ease part of the interchange. it would eliminate people waiting until the last possible second from cutting over from 59sb exit back into 45nb traffic (which does cause quite a stir and often wrecks). It also eliminates people entering at scott who are trying to jog over to the other side of the freeway to get to the 59sb ramp. that's a really short distance to do that in and really slows things down as well. people who want to get from scott to 59sb could easily ride up to the entrance at gray street.

 

anyway, it would resolve the part of the problem with the pierce elevated, which is the horrible transitions from 59 to 45sb, and from 45nb to 59. the lanes on that elevated portion of freeway are horrible under utilized at all times of day.

 

That sounds like a good idea, similar to what they're doing at the 610/290 interchange to allow drivers access to from 290 to I-10 without weaving across 610. Now, as for those who would still need to access 59 from Scott, I would propose a ramp from the feeder road just west of Scott to the Spur section that would connect to 59. That way, they'd still be able to access 59 without all of that weaving that backs up the mainlanes. I would also eliminate all of those antiquated left lane entrances and exits like the ramp from 288 NB to I-45 NB and I-45 SB to US 59 NB. Those left lane exits and entrances screw up the flow of traffic by putting slower traffic into what is supposed to be a passing lane.

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I like it. Great example that just solidifies an even better idea. I was thinking a little more about this as I was harrowing my way onto 45 this afternoon, why stop at just closing Allen Pkwy entrance? Close all entry and exit points between 59 and 10. Make it a full on downtown viaduct. In addition to the changes to spur 5, Maybe even close the 59 to 45 entries, make it 2 lanes NB, and 4 sb. Cheap solution. They'd need to make another lane on 59 north and i10 west to accommodate the traffic though. The length of additional travel from 59-10 to get around Houston is just less than a mile...

 

If you close all of the entries/exits between 10 and 59 you eliminate the bulk of the exits used to get to Downtown. I typically 10 to 45 to the Dallas/Pierce exit and turn on Jefferson. The exits aren't really an issue, and tend to spread the traffic on multiple surface streets going to different destinations. I do think the on ramps can be changed. The Allen Parkway ramp is just bad, I avoid it at all costs, and the St Joseph Pkwy ramp needs a better layout to get to Houston avenue/Memorial.

 

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How about the Galata Bridge in Istanbul?  I thought you said elsewhere you've been to Istanbul...

 

galata_bridge.png

 

 

I've been to Istanbul and eaten under the bridge.

 

It makes a huge difference that it's on the water. I makes a huge difference that cars aren't driving 70+ miles per hour above you (noise, etc).

 

Tip: Instead of eating under the bridge, get a fish sandwich from a street vendor on the south side of the Golden Horn between the bridge and ferry stop. They're cheap and really good. 

Edited by DNAguy

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That sounds like a good idea, similar to what they're doing at the 610/290 interchange to allow drivers access to from 290 to I-10 without weaving across 610. Now, as for those who would still need to access 59 from Scott, I would propose a ramp from the feeder road just west of Scott to the Spur section that would connect to 59. That way, they'd still be able to access 59 without all of that weaving that backs up the mainlanes. I would also eliminate all of those antiquated left lane entrances and exits like the ramp from 288 NB to I-45 NB and I-45 SB to US 59 NB. Those left lane exits and entrances screw up the flow of traffic by putting slower traffic into what is supposed to be a passing lane.

 

The scott on-ramp causes serious traffic issues. It should either be closed off or a concrete divider should be extended from the 59&288 south / 45& 59N split so that people can't cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to 59S.

 

In all actuality this wouldn't reduce freeway access in the area either. If you're at UH, take the spur to get onto 45 then take the exit as normal. If you're in EaDo and need to get to 59 south, then take the 45 feeder and follow it just past 59. Then take a left on Hamilton. There is a 59 south on ramp just past the 45/59 exchange. 

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The scott on-ramp causes serious traffic issues. It should either be closed off or a concrete divider should be extended from the 59&288 south / 45& 59N split so that people can't cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to 59S.

 

In all actuality this wouldn't reduce freeway access in the area either. If you're at UH, take the spur to get onto 45 then take the exit as normal. If you're in EaDo and need to get to 59 south, then take the 45 feeder and follow it just past 59. Then take a left on Hamilton. There is a 59 south on ramp just past the 45/59 exchange. 

 

The Scott onramp is so bad that I avoid it sometimes by taking the feeder road to where it turns into Pease, turn left onto Hamilton, and take the ramp from Hamilton onto 59 SB.

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The Scott onramp is so bad that I avoid it sometimes by taking the feeder road to where it turns into Pease, turn left onto Hamilton, and take the ramp from Hamilton onto 59 SB.

 

Me too. I purposely didn't write about it though b/c I don't want to give up one of 'my' good / semi-secret traffic work-arounds.  :(

 

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I've been to Istanbul and eaten under the bridge.

It makes a huge difference that it's on the water. I makes a huge difference that cars aren't driving 70+ miles per hour above you (noise, etc).

Tip: Instead of eating under the bridge, get a fish sandwich from a street vendor on the south side of the Golden Horn between the bridge and ferry stop. They're cheap and really good.

I agree the mackerel sandwiches are amazing for 5 liras.

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I think that would relieve problems on the Pierce and make the whole intersection a whole lot less confusing is rebuilding the 45/59/288 interchange. You've got three highways, two junctions, and a part where the two highways run concurrently. If the exits to 59 from the Pierce got off much earlier, you'd have a chance at relieving part of the problem.

Rather than terminating at a five-way intersection at Pierce and Brazos, that exit that split off from 45 much earlier can instead by widening the exit to Bagby/Pierce and continue underground at three lanes where one goes to 59W, one goes to 288S, and one to 59E.

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The Scott onramp is so bad that I avoid it sometimes by taking the feeder road to where it turns into Pease, turn left onto Hamilton, and take the ramp from Hamilton onto 59 SB.

 

It's really the quicker way around, pretty much any time of day.

 

I enter at telephone, and by default if I'm going to 59 south, I get on the downtown exits ramp and zoom past all those people sitting in the main lanes.

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Me too. I purposely didn't write about it though b/c I don't want to give up one of 'my' good / semi-secret traffic work-arounds.  :(

 

 

At certain times of day, everyone else has the same idea, so it's not a big secret. I'm usually trying to access 288 instead of 59, but either way, when the Hamilton route is also clogged, that's when I'll decide to take... whoops! Almost let that secret slip! :P

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so far as I know, that wouldn't work, railroad companies don't let you do anything inside their ROW due to insurance concerns, and as far as how it would split it more than it's already split, there's no way that the amount of space would allow for the necessary ROW for a freeway, even if there were no onramps/offramps and it were a true viaduct around downtown, they'd need more ROW than exists there currently. 

 

However, assuming that a railroad would let someone build in their ROW...

 

A railroad is bad enough on its own, true enough, but the neighborhood also grew up around the railroad, much as certain areas of town grow up around freeways where the freeway existed prior to the area of town. Adding a freeway to an already established area (even if crossed in the same location with a railroad already) will scar the landscape for decades, just as it has been demonstrated to do everywhere a freeway is built in already established areas. 

 

I am against new freeways being installed anywhere in an already established area, especially if it goes through a neighborhood, even if it is along an existing railroad track, I will always be against it. That I live a few blocks from there just makes it more personal to me and I'd probably dedicate time to fighting it, rather than just expressing myself on message boards, or signing a random petition.

 

Westpark was a very unique example that worked because you removed a railroad that was adjacent to a roadway, and there was a lot of ROW that existed for most of the distance thanks to forward thinking and planning. So you removed one and dropped another right on top of where the other used to sit.

true.. so even if you got air-rights to the railroad ROW and elevated a 4 lane freeway above the tracks, not taking up any additional ROW/tearing down structures/buying land/ect, you wouldnt be cool with it? what about a 610W traffic reliever 4 lane tollroad along side the rail line that goes through Memorial Park (and unfortunately Afton Oaks, so it would probably never happen), from 610 south to 610 north? even if it were trenched like the Dallas North Tollway is in the inner city? ive always thought that would be a semi-decent solution to avoiding 610W, logistics/political obstacles aside. only have connections/exits/onramps at 610S, Westpark/59, i10, and 610N.

 

I think that would relieve problems on the Pierce and make the whole intersection a whole lot less confusing is rebuilding the 45/59/288 interchange. You've got three highways, two junctions, and a part where the two highways run concurrently. If the exits to 59 from the Pierce got off much earlier, you'd have a chance at relieving part of the problem.

Rather than terminating at a five-way intersection at Pierce and Brazos, that exit that split off from 45 much earlier can instead by widening the exit to Bagby/Pierce and continue underground at three lanes where one goes to 59W, one goes to 288S, and one to 59E.

agreed.. this interchange sucks and is the root of most of the problems i feel. it needs to be reworked badly if nothing else.

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I think a combination of some of the things suggested could work wonders for the Pierce: a more inviting exterior, better lighting, a night market, and a reworking of the exits/on-ramps.

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ok, since my last/more radical idea of rerouting the freeways didnt go over so well.. this one keeps the highway layout the exact same. not much new is proposed here, except a few things youll notice in the East End/EaDo.

the main focus here would be getting more of the downtown destinationers to use the "downtown connectors" like Allen Parkway, Memorial Drive, Elysian, and now.. Buffalo Parkway. Franklin Parkway? or whatever my proposed Allen/Memorial-esque parkway south of the bayou through the East End would be called. its still up in the air. heh.

the Hardy Downtown Connector will hopefully have an exit that spills off into the 59 downtown connector ramps (at Jackson/Chanevert/Hamilton) or direct non stop path into downtown, and not just stop at/dump people out onto i10 in a free for all trying to battle traffic into downtown.

there would also be serious reworking of the 288/59/45 interchange, as well as some of the other suggested ideas like closing off certain onramps/exits that have funky merges that screw up the flow of traffic.

i also trenched .8 miles of the Pierce from the Allen Garage to Caroline, and trenched .5 miles of 59 from the north side of GRB to Commerce, to eliminate part of the visual blight and allow for pedestrian bridges and potential deck parks built over the freeways.

here is the right up about the trenching of US59 through Montrose. some of the dates are off, but ive seen the same cost listed elsewhere for the construction (not including bridges).. 71 million dollars for 1.75 miles in 2004 dollars. why cant TXDOT afford to trench parts of 45/59 around downtown again? we just need to fight it like they did for Montrose.

http://reconnectaustin.com/precedents/us-59/

B11FD164-FC71-4E33-A553-8C6E7A198FF3_zps



here is Franklin Street, which already doesnt have a stop light where St Emanuel hits it, and is trenched under the rail road tracks, so its already got a parkway like feel for a few blocks as it turns into Navigation.
-side note: the "new Navigation" would follow the path of a widened Runnels St, so Navigation stays running East/West without any funky turn to the south. that would continue past the end of the current Runnels at McKee, and go all the way to San Jacinto.
now Franklin (following the path of the south leg of old Navigation/Jensen) would be trenched under Canal, and Navigation, before turning east at Kennedy St, which would be where the parkway finally starts to parallel the bayou, all the way to 90A and Clinton, where the road will split each direction for people headed towards i10, and people headed towards 610E. the parkway utilizes vacant land, desolate streets, and abandoned rail road/utility ROWs.
it would be a decent alternate route into downtown from ~5 miles out, especially if there is bad traffic, a wreck, or construction on i10, 45, or even 59 (traffic there can back up around downtown and effect the other highways too), and you want to avoid traffic/need to get to downtown. the only reason i say decent and not absolutely fantastic is because the East End obviously gets industrial once you get out towards the end of the new segment of this parkway/where it would turn into a more parkwayified 90A and Clinton at the turning basin, so theres not nearly as much demand out that way for a parkway leading to downtown, like there is on the west side with Allen and Memorial. but again, it would be a great way to avoid slow moving traffic on 10 and 45 trying to head into or out of downtown from/towards the East.

(green trenched[the southern most one already exists], red elevated)
65F41571-8313-49D9-B127-5DFF1AF286AB_zps

06F7EEF4-7138-479E-AACA-D03D2D8E6B6E_zps

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I can't say whether I think that would be a great idea or not (adding another highway seems iffy at this point and probably diminishing returns at this point) but I really like the thought you put into it.

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I really like some of those ideas. Particularly the East End parkway and the trenching of the Pierce Elevated. I think a parkway would be particularly effective at opening up the oft-neglected southern bank of the Bayou east of Downtown to development. Connectivity to those huge chunks of land along the Bayou isn't very good right now since it was all industrial until recently.

 

The 45/59/288 interchange definitely needs redesigning. In addition to being a really awkward mix of the three freeways – with poor transfer ramps between each of them – it's also a scar on the cityscape that presents a formidable boundary between Midtown and the Third Ward. When it does get reconstructed there needs to be a serious aesthetic overhaul.

 

I've always thought that the Downtown freeway complex needs to be "de-spaghettified". It's nice that the freeway planners of yesteryear wanted to provide as many entrance and exit ramps as possible, but constructs like the spaghetti bowl on 45 over the Bayou only end up impeding traffic flow in favor of a few underused and unsafe ramps. As cloud713 said, the future renovation should seek to focus Downtown commuters on a set of dedicated entrances to the district. That sort of planning would make it a lot easier to manage traffic in the area (as well as decrease the probability of people getting lost).

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I can't say whether I think that would be a great idea or not (adding another highway seems iffy at this point and probably diminishing returns at this point) but I really like the thought you put into it.

Thanks, though no new highways were added (unless you could the Hardy downtown connector).. The new east end parkway is more of a fuchsia but it sort of looks red like the highways. The east end route is a 4 lane parkway, based off of Allen, Memorial, and TC Jester to an extent (not going to lie.. I was partially inspired to scheme up an east end parkway after you started the parkway thread)

I really like some of those ideas. Particularly the East End parkway and the trenching of the Pierce Elevated. I think a parkway would be particularly effective at opening up the oft-neglected southern bank of the Bayou east of Downtown to development. Connectivity to those huge chunks of land along the Bayou isn't very good right now since it was all industrial until recently.

The 45/59/288 interchange definitely needs redesigning. In addition to being a really awkward mix of the three freeways – with poor transfer ramps between each of them – it's also a scar on the cityscape that presents a formidable boundary between Midtown and the Third Ward. When it does get reconstructed there needs to be a serious aesthetic overhaul.

I've always thought that the Downtown freeway complex needs to be "de-spaghettified". It's nice that the freeway planners of yesteryear wanted to provide as many entrance and exit ramps as possible, but constructs like the spaghetti bowl on 45 over the Bayou only end up impeding traffic flow in favor of a few underused and unsafe ramps. As cloud713 said, the future renovation should seek to focus Downtown commuters on a set of dedicated entrances to the district. That sort of planning would make it a lot easier to manage traffic in the area (as well as decrease the probability of people getting lost).

Thank you as well. I don't understand why portions of the Pierce and 59 can't be trenched like Montrose was able to get TxDot to do with 59. Doesn't seen too expensive minus the bridges.. But there are 8-9 different bridges over 45 so that could get a little expensive.. Lol.

Great points about it opening up the bayou to development. I too noticed there weren't many connections out there (part of why it made for a prime parkway route.. Not much to bisect), though I had envisioned this to be more of a thoroughfare, with connections at the major cross roads like York and Lockwood, though I suppose there could be access spawning off the parkway at certain spots to spur development in those locations.

It will be interesting to come up with ways to hide the 288/59/45 interchange unless they get creative like Westpark at Beltway 8 with trenched exit/entrance(?) lanes crossing underneath the main lanes.

Edited by cloud713

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What the Downtown area really needs is a rework of the exits/entrances and get out of the antiquated 1960s ways that they were set up.

 

Now, I hate comparisons to another city, but there is a project that they're doing that would be beneficial here (Houston) as well. Asterisks have been used to hide references, but the point still remains. :)

 

Originally designed in the 1950's, the [local] freeways were constructed between 1958 and 1962 [not the actual dates]. At that time, downtown Dallas was the primary destination of the majority of local freeway travelers. So much so, that the adjacent freeway system was designed accordingly. Planners and designers must now attempt to solve the demands of current-day travel patterns, the least of which entails the fact that 4 out of every 5 travelers now remain on the freeways [also not a statistic that we use] and bypass downtown ******.

No significant improvements to roadway capacity have been made since the freeways were originally constructed. Minor improvements such as converting the inside shoulders to travel lanes were made, but are considered interim improvements until a long-term solution can be provided.

The design standards for freeways and Interstate Highways have changed since the roadways were originally constructed. In many locations, ramps do not have adequate acceleration or deceleration lengths, interchanges and ramps are too close together, bridges have limited vertical and horizontal clearances, and the freeway has poor sight distances.

Traffic problems are made worse by the layout of main lanes, service roads, ramps, and surface streets in the area, which do not properly provide for the major traffic demand routes and destinations. Forced lane changes, abrupt and unexpected merges, short weaves and quick exits compound the problems.

The goals for the project include:

Maximizing the traffic carrying capacity of the freeway system by integrating high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), Transportation Systems Management (TSM), and TDM elements into the design;

Minimizing the need for additional right-of-way;

Providing more reliable transportation facilities by decreasing congestion and travel times;

Improving interregional connections to existing and proposed roadways and transit facilities;

Enhancing travel and accessibility to downtown ******, major employment areas and activity centers within the corridor;

Enhancing bicycle and pedestrian access across the facilities;

Integrating urban design elements to reflect the character and location of the surrounding communities;

Developing a technically and financially feasible solution.

Those are all very good goals, and what's not feasible is trying to trench the Pierce Elevated (part of the reason why the 59 trenching worked was relatively few bridges, trenching the Pierce would involve closing off roads), rebuild substantially parts of the system underground (friendly reminder: the Big Dig was NOT an example to do things), or removing the Pierce and replacing it with a surface grade road.

Rebuilding exits and interchanges to modern design standards will work wonders for congestion.

For starters, the exit to 59W from the Pierce makes no sense since that's really an exit to 288S, so you'll need to make an exit (left hand) to 59W. That's why the exit that currently terminates at Pierce/Bagby (at a five way intersection, no less) needs to be the main exit to 59W.

Meanwhile, 45S to 59E is ALSO an inner entrance. If that exit was replaced with one that entered on the outside and not merging with 59E until AFTER the Chartres exit, that's another problem solved. The way that it's set up now is that you can't exit Chartres if you were coming from 45S anyway.

The 59W to 45N (Pierce Elevated exit) needs to be widened and reformatted so that part of that traffic IS the 288S exit as well, which would prevent confusion over at the other end. Since 288S is formed by the southern exits of 45N and 45S, and expecting drivers to make their way over to 59W, the logical solution would be to add in real ramps from the two on-ramps that actually lead to 59W and not 288 serving as some sort of collecting exit. Coming in from 45S means you have to jog a few lanes over to get to the 59W exit in time, which was one of the big problems of 610/US-290.

A lot of this problem stems from the creation of 288, which didn't actually open until 1980, and the design wasn't done until about the rest of freeways were already opened. As a result, it doesn't flow as well as the other freeways, which were done in the 1960s but at least make sense as far as design conventions. Extending 225 would've also made the freeways more complicated, and arguably really not that necessary in the long run since it was designed to supplant the Gulf Freeway, which was widened in the 1980s (in that portion, prior to that, it was a dated and inadequate pre-Interstate highway).

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Forgot to copy-check that paragraph (so much for my city neutrality plan), but if you followed any of what I wrote regarding the exits, you deserve a prize if you weren't looking at a map to get what I was talking about.

 

I would hope that with the Hardy Toll Road extension and replacement of the Elysian Street Viaduct, some other ramp re-dos may be warranted.

 

But seriously--the whole 59/45/288 interchange needs to be rebuilt.

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Here are my top gripes about the 288/59/45 interchange.

1. The ramp from 59NB to 288NB merges 2 lanes with a 3 lane highway. The resulting merge should be a 5 lane highway, right? Nope. The inside lane of the ramp and the outside lane of 288 merge into one. It's an antiquated design. There was a similar problem with the ramp from 288NB to US59NB that was fixed by restriping one of the lanes into a shoulder lane.

2. The ramp from 288NB to 45NB. Prior to the reconstruction of the Pierce Elevated in 1997, you had a similar situation as above. The outside lane of the ramp from 288NB would merge with the left lane of 45NB. TxDOT restriped the ramp so the lanes would merge into 1 before merging with 45, but that causes the ramp to back up to 59 on some days. Better lane balancing by turning the ramp back into a 2 lane ramp and making the Pierce Elevated 4 lanes from that point on would fix that problem.

3. The onramp from 288 from Hamilton is terrible. There's hardly any acceleration lane, and before it merges with 288, another ramp from Chenevert at Berry merges with the Hamilton onramp. A solution would be to shift the 288 SB mainlines slightly so there's a longer acceleration lane and maybe close the onramp from Chenevert at Berry since I don't see it being heavily utilized. The left shoulder is wide enough to accommodate the shift.

4. The onramp from Jackson St. to 288 SB is the same way. It looks like there's enough room to shift the lanes over to make the acceleration lane longer.

5. The ramp from 59NB to 288SB. This problem comes more from people who don't know how to merge since there's more than ample space to accelerate, but I think traffic would flow better if that ramp turned into an auxiliary lane that would terminate as an "EXIT ONLY" lane at Southmore.

Edited by JLWM8609
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ok, since my last/more radical idea of rerouting the freeways didnt go over so well.. this one keeps the highway layout the exact same. not much new is proposed here, except a few things youll notice in the East End/EaDo.

the main focus here would be getting more of the downtown destinationers to use the "downtown connectors" like Allen Parkway, Memorial Drive, Elysian, and now.. Buffalo Parkway. Franklin Parkway? or whatever my proposed Allen/Memorial-esque parkway south of the bayou through the East End would be called. its still up in the air. heh.

the Hardy Downtown Connector will hopefully have an exit that spills off into the 59 downtown connector ramps (at Jackson/Chanevert/Hamilton) or direct non stop path into downtown, and not just stop at/dump people out onto i10 in a free for all trying to battle traffic into downtown.

there would also be serious reworking of the 288/59/45 interchange, as well as some of the other suggested ideas like closing off certain onramps/exits that have funky merges that screw up the flow of traffic.

i also trenched .8 miles of the Pierce from the Allen Garage to Caroline, and trenched .5 miles of 59 from the north side of GRB to Commerce, to eliminate part of the visual blight and allow for pedestrian bridges and potential deck parks built over the freeways.

here is the right up about the trenching of US59 through Montrose. some of the dates are off, but ive seen the same cost listed elsewhere for the construction (not including bridges).. 71 million dollars for 1.75 miles in 2004 dollars. why cant TXDOT afford to trench parts of 45/59 around downtown again? we just need to fight it like they did for Montrose.

http://reconnectaustin.com/precedents/us-59/

B11FD164-FC71-4E33-A553-8C6E7A198FF3_zps

here is Franklin Street, which already doesnt have a stop light where St Emanuel hits it, and is trenched under the rail road tracks, so its already got a parkway like feel for a few blocks as it turns into Navigation.

-side note: the "new Navigation" would follow the path of a widened Runnels St, so Navigation stays running East/West without any funky turn to the south. that would continue past the end of the current Runnels at McKee, and go all the way to San Jacinto.

now Franklin (following the path of the south leg of old Navigation/Jensen) would be trenched under Canal, and Navigation, before turning east at Kennedy St, which would be where the parkway finally starts to parallel the bayou, all the way to 90A and Clinton, where the road will split each direction for people headed towards i10, and people headed towards 610E. the parkway utilizes vacant land, desolate streets, and abandoned rail road/utility ROWs.

it would be a decent alternate route into downtown from ~5 miles out, especially if there is bad traffic, a wreck, or construction on i10, 45, or even 59 (traffic there can back up around downtown and effect the other highways too), and you want to avoid traffic/need to get to downtown. the only reason i say decent and not absolutely fantastic is because the East End obviously gets industrial once you get out towards the end of the new segment of this parkway/where it would turn into a more parkwayified 90A and Clinton at the turning basin, so theres not nearly as much demand out that way for a parkway leading to downtown, like there is on the west side with Allen and Memorial. but again, it would be a great way to avoid slow moving traffic on 10 and 45 trying to head into or out of downtown from/towards the East.

(green trenched[the southern most one already exists], red elevated)

65F41571-8313-49D9-B127-5DFF1AF286AB_zps

06F7EEF4-7138-479E-AACA-D03D2D8E6B6E_zps

In a prior discussion on the Post Office site thread, an old Downtown redevelopment rendering showed a connection between Washington Ave and Navigation Blvd, which could make a useful east-west artery paralleling I-10. In the rendering, Franklin St bridge over Buffalo Bayou is eliminated and traffic is rerouted over some of the Post Office site, then through the middle of North Canal Island to an eventual connection to Runnels/Navigation. Considering the revitalization efforts on both Washington Ave & Navigation Blvd, I'd love if this were to happen and they be connected.

1-WATE~1.jpg

Edited by tigereye
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While poking around on Google Maps Street View, looking at the Mobil (now Exxon) on the corner and trying to figure out when it had a KFC, I noticed that the Pierce Elevated on-ramps (to 288) were of now-rather-dated steel structures which haven't been used for building ramps and highways in decades.

I know the Pierce starts backing up every day, but where do the bottlenecks tend to start?

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