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MaxConcrete

TxDOT plan for downtown and I-45: analysis and problem list

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They're taking one block. For a project of this magnitude, that's fairly impressive. Again, compare this to the takings that went on with the Katy Freeway reconstruction.

 

The reduced crossings may be a blessing in disguise, by creating a clearly delineated set of arterial streets in downtown, reducing traffic on other streets and setting the stage for quality of life improvements such as separated bike lanes and sidewalk expansion/street beautification. There is already considerable overcapacity in downtown surface streets, which means that the land is being used inefficiently.

 

I'm a bit puzzled by the characterization of a "car canyon". There's currently a 1970s-era elevated freeway there. Compare that to, say, the Central Expressway in Dallas. I don't think you'll have too many people preferring the former over the latter. Furthermore, the caps are by their nature a long-term project. It's not necessarily for a better Houston for us, but for our children and grandchildren.

 

I'm also a little confused by an elevated freeway being removed as a problem east of downtown, but one remaining being a problem north of downtown. If it's an issue up there, certainly it's a bigger one down the 59 corridor?

 

Thing is, I'm not sure congestion reduction is the goal here, nor should it be. By the time this is done, there will be 7-8 million in the Houston metro area, and the City of Houston proper will be around 3 million in population. With those numbers, there simply is no feasible long-term congestion reduction strategy, short of implementing road pricing (and even that is temporary). This may be a point we fundamentally disagree on with respect to traffic design, but to me, the goal of our freeway system going forth should be to direct unnecessary trips away from downtown, as opposed to making it easier to get through downtown. This design balances that with practical concerns about current habits.

 

Truth is, as long as Houston continues to grow, traffic will only get worse. We can build out of it to a point, but making it our only priority leaves Houston a city for cars, and cars alone.

Yep, one block with apartments, and all kinds of great businesses, farther up where it will cross I-10 they're removing an entire community. Katy freeway was worse, but to pull an analogy I recently saw "having an accident at 60mph is worse than an accident at 30mph, but they're both accidents".

 

I don't see how reduced mobility between areas of town (especially when they are disparate income areas) is ever a good thing. Reducing the number of crossings (increasing choke points) can never be good.

 

If they put that park over it, it won't be an issue. If they lit the current structure and put in areas for food stalls, and things to make the elevated portion inviting, it wouldn't be an issue either. 

 

The current elevated portion of 59 is a known quantity and is being worked around despite itself. Pierce elevated is the same way.

 

If congestion reduction isn't the goal, then what is? Specifically removing the pierce elevated? Bringing midtown together with downtown is the only goal? In my estimation, for all the reasons I've listed, the price is too high.

 

We're going to have to just agree to disagree here.

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So we're potentially going to have the area of downtown that draws most tourists (convention, baseball, basketball, soccer, concerts) blighted by a car canyon.

Does anybody not see the irony in this statement? I mean...we're talking about the same downtown Houston, right?

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Does anybody not see the irony in this statement? I mean...we're talking about the same downtown Houston, right?

 

Maybe I'm wrong, but in my mind an elevated freeway half a block wide is more palatable than a trench 1 and 1/2 blocks wide, no matter how many surface parking lots there are already in downtown, and how many empty crumbling buildings there are, this would make it decidedly worse on that side of town.

 

I'm assuming that the money to put a grass cover on top of this thing isn't going to happen. It's not in the budget for the re-alignment which means the city has to come forward with the money to put a cap on it. If I remember reading correctly it's a $200,000,000 estimate. Where is this money going to come from? Downtown, and/or EaDo TIRZ? Harris County Sports Authority? Convention Authority? Philanthropy? Bond referendum? Have I missed reading somewhere that the money has already been earmarked? Why is everyone here assuming this part is a done deal?

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Maybe I'm wrong, but in my mind an elevated freeway half a block wide is more palatable than a trench 1 and 1/2 blocks wide, no matter how many surface parking lots there are already in downtown, and how many empty crumbling buildings there are, this would make it decidedly worse on that side of town.

I'm assuming that the money to put a grass cover on top of this thing isn't going to happen. It's not in the budget for the re-alignment which means the city has to come forward with the money to put a cap on it. If I remember reading correctly it's a $200,000,000 estimate. Where is this money going to come from? Downtown, and/or EaDo TIRZ? Harris County Sports Authority? Convention Authority? Philanthropy? Bond referendum? Have I missed reading somewhere that the money has already been earmarked? Why is everyone here assuming this part is a done deal?

If the freeway were to be trenched it leaves the possibility for a park or green space to be placed there eventually. How many years or decades it could take is left up to your imagination, but makes sense from a long term standpoint. I know this is pure fantasy but it would great to have an even larger park space on both sides of the convention center, eventually maybe even redoing the east side of the GRB at a later time.

Leaving the northern portion elevated of this reconfiguration is reasonable. I know we cannot get rid of all elevated freeways in the loop but as much as we can hide them under the surface the better. Plus, when we have major flooding it's easier to clean up a slab of concrete than let a neighborhood flood.

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Maybe I'm wrong, but in my mind an elevated freeway half a block wide is more palatable than a trench 1 and 1/2 blocks wide, no matter how many surface parking lots there are already in downtown, and how many empty crumbling buildings there are, this would make it decidedly worse on that side of town.

 

I'm assuming that the money to put a grass cover on top of this thing isn't going to happen. It's not in the budget for the re-alignment which means the city has to come forward with the money to put a cap on it. If I remember reading correctly it's a $200,000,000 estimate. Where is this money going to come from? Downtown, and/or EaDo TIRZ? Harris County Sports Authority? Convention Authority? Philanthropy? Bond referendum? Have I missed reading somewhere that the money has already been earmarked? Why is everyone here assuming this part is a done deal?

 

I don't think anyone's assuming it's a done deal. I personally don't think the cap will be constructed until 5-10 years after construction is complete. However, that's fine by me - the trench will be an incremental improvement, and once the cap is easier to visualize, funding for construction will be easier to acquire.

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I'm just vaguely reading what's been posted, but for the people who are worried about a trench, I understand their point. It could end up like the 59 trench (unlikely), or it could look like crap.

In order to prevent this, there needs to be a strong push for this proposed green space that would cover the trench.

That should be the focus of both sides; trenching the mega-highway and creating a unified space that won't cut off any neighboorhoods (sorta like 288 did)

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I'm just vaguely reading what's been posted, but for the people who are worried about a trench, I understand their point. It could end up like the 59 trench (unlikely), or it could look like crap.

In order to prevent this, there needs to be a strong push for this proposed green space that would cover the trench.

That should be the focus of both sides; trenching the mega-highway and creating a unified space that won't cut off any neighboorhoods (sorta like 288 did)

 

I think a better example for a design target should be something like US 75 that runs through Uptown Dallas.

 

It has no vegetation, but still looks pretty darn good (as far as a trenched freeway can look 'good'). I imagine the 59 trench would look pretty crappy without the ivy. And we all know that ivy doesn't do well in the dark :blink: .

 

The ultimate design of the 59/69/45 trench should be built to accommodate capping, but look good without it IMO.

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For those not aware, TxDOT recently posted revised schematics on the official project web site, http://www.ih45northandmore.com/

 

I updated my analysis of the schematics, http://houstonfreeways.com/analysis

 

The good news is that TxDOT has fixed many of the problems in the original plan, including the two most serious issues: insufficient capacity on I-45 through downtown and the bottleneck choke point at North Main. Other major fixes include access of the I-45 MaX lanes to/from Loop 610, the I-45 northbound approach to Beltway 8, downtown access from I-10 westbound, and an on-ramp from Allen Parkway to the downtown spur.

 

However, I still have seven major items of concern (two new items and five from the original list), and I've asked TxDOT to review these items.

 

Realistically I can't expect to get action on all my original items of concern (http://houstonfreeways.com/analysis#status), and in some cases my concerns did not warrant changes or changes were not feasible. Overall, I'm really glad to see the revisions, and I'm hoping for some more adjustments to address my remaining concerns.

 

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Maybe I'm just not reading this schematic right, but how do you get into downtown from 45 south?  It looks like they are saying they are going to demolish the current ramps on to Pease and St. Joseph 

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that's what it appears to be. I suspect they are going to remove the spur section.

 

MaxConcrete, do you have any information on this?

 

I found something interesting at the end of a texas monthly article...

 

http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/green-acres-2/

 

 

 

There’s a proposal to convert an elevated portion of I-45 east of downtown into a park.

 

The spur 35 section is the only part of any freeway that fits the description. Very curious. Very curious indeed. I'm not going to get my hopes up, they are probably talking about what some people want to do with the pierce elevated, even though it's not east of downtown.

 

Overall though, these changes make me feel a little less apprehensive about this project, 45 on the NB side is mostly going to be 4 lanes, and in some places 5 lanes. Even if they aren't addressing concerns of the surface streets, this at least makes me feel better that there will be more capacity, which is what is needed. I still think it will suck for people living in the area, but I feel better about those of us living here losing something, if overall it is going to be better for everyone in the city and not just the few developers who see $$ with the Pierce removed.

Edited by samagon

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I like how they are integrating the new 45 North / West downtown spur into the existing street grid.

 

I hate that we're replacing a trenched section of freeway with an elevated structure.

 

Is there no way to use the existing trenched section of 45 under Dallas and tie that into the 45 spur?

 

 

 

 

post-12487-0-10521600-1444152072_thumb.j

Edited by DNAguy

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I like how they are integrating the new 45 North / West downtown spur into the existing street grid.

 

I hate that we're replacing a trenched section of freeway with an elevated structure.

 

Is there no way to use the existing trenched section of 45 under Dallas and tie that into the 45 spur?

 

On the positive side, there are currently elevated structures in that stretch, in addition to the trenched freeway.  With the new plan, we'll still have elevated structures (of very similar size to the existing structures) and lose the trenched and surface freeway.

Edited by Houston19514

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I wonder why they chose to build new elevated ramps rather than use the existing trench

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because the 'dallas dip' is probably the worst part of the pierce elevated. It's what, a 40' elevation change from going over Allen Parkway (which you can't go under because of the bayou) to going under Dallas? 

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There are also already elevated ramps there - the SB access to Jefferson, Bagby, and Pierce, and the NB access from Pease, Brazos, and Calhoun St. Joseph Parkway.

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Maybe I'm just not reading this schematic right, but how do you get into downtown from 45 south?  It looks like they are saying they are going to demolish the current ramps on to Pease and St. Joseph 

 

My reading of the schematic is the same as yours: the long elevated connection into Pease and St.Joseph will no longer provide access into Pease and St. Joseph, but instead will serve as a long exit ramp to US 59.and SH 288. Access to Pease and St. Joseph will be from the main lanes.

 

The schematic is not clear about the connection from Jefferson to the southbound elevated structure. The only way I can interpret the schematic is that the I-45 main lanes will go over the Jefferson connection, but the geometry does not seem to allow that if the I-45 main lanes remain at ground level at Delano street. Maybe the Jefferson connection is brought down to ground level (it is very old), and that could make it feasible to bring the I-45 lanes over it.

 

It also is not clear to me how the HOV lane is terminated.

 

I'll ask TxDOT about that area, and if the design is cause for concern I will add it to my problem list.

 

Samagon: that mention in the Texas Monthly article is almost surely the Pierce Elevated, and they mistakenly said it is east of downtown.

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There's still no connection to Veterans Memorial from I-45. I submitted the suggestion to construct a connection to Veterans Memorial from the NB feeder in the public comments, but I guess TxDOT doesn't think it's busy enough to warrant a connection.

 

Also, looking at the I-10/I-45 section north of Downtown, the updated schematic doesn't include the proposed extension of N. San Jacinto to the intersection of Fulton and Burnett St. and the N. San Jacinto St. overpass over the UPRR. It's gonna be one heck of a transition from a depressed freeway east of Hardy to jumping to an elevated freeway that'll have to clear the tall overpasses at N. San Jacinto and N. Main that go over the UPRR.

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Maybe I'm just not reading this schematic right, but how do you get into downtown from 45 south?  It looks like they are saying they are going to demolish the current ramps on to Pease and St. Joseph 

 

This change is a separate project that (I believe) is currently in progress.  There will still be exits to Pease and St. Joseph, but they will not be via the long ramps.  The long ramps will now carry traffic from Northbound I-45 to Southbound I-69/US59.

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are there any schematics posted online, similar to what is there for the 45 relocation? What is going to happen to the rest of the spur out by UH? What about southbound traffic?

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are there any schematics posted online, similar to what is there for the 45 relocation? What is going to happen to the rest of the spur out by UH? What about southbound traffic?

 

The long term plans call for the spur to be extended south to Alvin and redesignated SH 35.

 

Fun fact: Did you know SH 35 begins at the Jefferson St. onramp to I-45 and is multiplexed with I-45 to 610?

Edited by JLWM8609

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Rather disappointed to see a connector from I-10 westbound added to the southbound spur (aka downtown connector), which unless I'm mistaken appears to add another separate lane going over Buffalo Bayou, with its associated support columns, etc. I thought part of the point of demolishing Pierce Elevated was to greatly slim down the profile of what goes over the bayou; now we seem to be slowly bulking it back up again.

 

I mean really, does somebody coming in on I-10 from east Houston need a connector to fly them all the way around the north side of downtown and land them on the west side, south of the bayou? They can enter downtown from the east side, where they're coming from.

 

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By that logic, why keep the east side downtown connector?  We could just have people coming from the North come into North downtown, and people coming in from the west into NW downtown (since I-10 is north of downtown anyway)

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H-Town - I live just east of DT and use the current connector every day.  When the new plan first came out, without this connector, I was upset.  Getting to Montrose, Midtown and to the 527 Spur is difficult otherwise.  I am very happy to see this added.  Having the main lanes of 45 gone will clear a lot out.  But, the traffic patterns still need to be functional.  getting in to Montrose, Wertheimer and points west from 45 South will still be a big problem/hassle, I fear.  I would like to see a cut and Cap tunnel run under Pierce or St. Joseph to the SW side of Downtown connecting I-45 South.   

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By that logic, why keep the east side downtown connector?  We could just have people coming from the North come into North downtown, and people coming in from the west into NW downtown (since I-10 is north of downtown anyway)

 

We're talking about a connector that arcs halfway around downtown before touching anything. I-10 east probably delivers the least number of commuters to downtown of any of the freeways that serve it.

 

On second thought, it sounds like you may have been agreeing with me. Tentatively I would say that yes, in general, it makes more sense to have people enter downtown from the direction they're coming from, rather than everyone wanting a special ramp to take them to their preferred side of downtown.

 

Edited by H-Town Man
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H-Town - I live just east of DT and use the current connector every day.  When the new plan first came out, without this connector, I was upset.  Getting to Montrose, Midtown and to the 527 Spur is difficult otherwise.  I am very happy to see this added.  Having the main lanes of 45 gone will clear a lot out.  But, the traffic patterns still need to be functional.  getting in to Montrose, Wertheimer and points west from 45 South will still be a big problem/hassle, I fear.  I would like to see a cut and Cap tunnel run under Pierce or St. Joseph to the SW side of Downtown connecting I-45 South.   

 

If you're going to Montrose, Midtown, Westheimer, etc., wouldn't it make more sense to go down 59? North of downtown should not be the shortest distance between you and Montrose. The scenic priorities of the Buffalo Bayou Park should take precedent over people who need to drive from east of downtown to Montrose.

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But it is quicker.  It's much quicker.  That's why I go that way.  I do a lot of volunteer work with Buffalo Bayou Partnership and understand it's aesthetic aspirations and agree that it is important.  But, not above all else needs of the city.  There is going to be a lot less concrete over the bayou with the rerouting of I-45.  I don't think that a single lane will lead to more support columns in the park. 

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But it is quicker.  It's much quicker.  That's why I go that way.  I do a lot of volunteer work with Buffalo Bayou Partnership and understand it's aesthetic aspirations and agree that it is important.  But, not above all else needs of the city.  There is going to be a lot less concrete over the bayou with the rerouting of I-45.  I don't think that a single lane will lead to more support columns in the park. 

 

Of course it's quicker. Direct ramps are always quicker. We could fill the city with direct ramps and everything would be quicker.

 

Yes, the single lane will lead to more support columns because as I mentioned, the lane is detached from the other lanes. They don't want the cars trying to merge together, so they've created a whole new structure for this one lane, with its own support columns, shoulders, etc. The city doesn't need this one lane that much.

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I respect your opinion.  But, there currently is a connection here.  TxDOT apparently believes that it is important enough to keep the connection here.  As the East side and East Downtown continue to develop and if the KBR ever is developed into something significant, these connections to I-10 will be very important.  Forcing a lot of traffic across the Downtown grid, which already is very obstructed by on the East side, especially on any type of game day, is very impractical.  You may be right about the columns...But, I only the final design will decide that.

 

I'll take my comments off the air...

Edited by Naviguessor

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I respect your opinion. But, there currently is a connection here. TxDOT apparently believes that it is important enough to keep the connection here. As the East side and East Downtown continue to develop and if the KBR ever is developed into something significant, these connections to I-10 will be very important. Forcing a lot of traffic across the Downtown grid, which already is very obstructed by on the East side, especially on any type of game day, is very impractical. You may be right about the columns...But, I only the final design will decide that.

I'll take my comments off the air...

We don't have to wait for a final design to know that there will be columns. You can't build a flyover without columns to hold it.

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You're a bit behind there, BeerNut. The author of that already posted it in this thread about a week and 25 posts ago. I assume you saw it on reddit, which usually is about a week behind HAIF on things like this?

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We don't have to wait for a final design to know that there will be columns. You can't build a flyover without columns to hold it.

 

At the location of your concern, the direct connector runs between and immediately next to the other ramps.  I'm not sure we necessarily know that the design would require additional columns.

 

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At the location of your concern, the direct connector runs between and immediately next to the other ramps.  I'm not sure we necessarily know that the design would require additional columns.

 

 

You mean that perhaps the supports for the other ramps would extend out far enough that this additional ramp could just ride along without its own columns? Do you know of any freeway ramps where a configuration like this exists? It seems highly unusual to have a ramp without its own supports, when you consider the weight these have to carry (e.g. eighteen wheelers).

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You mean that perhaps the supports for the other ramps would extend out far enough that this additional ramp could just ride along without its own columns? Do you know of any freeway ramps where a configuration like this exists? It seems highly unusual to have a ramp without its own supports, when you consider the weight these have to carry (e.g. eighteen wheelers).

 

Yes.  Extending the supports out from both of the two adjacent ramps should not be a particularly challenging engineering feat.  We're not talking about cantilevering it.  We're talking about a support beam extending for the width of a one-lane ramp, supported on either end by the columns already necessary for the two adjoining ramps.

 

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Yes. Extending the supports out from both of the two adjacent ramps should not be a particularly challenging engineering feat. We're not talking about cantilevering it. We're talking about a support beam extending for the width of a one-lane ramp, supported on either end by the columns already necessary for the two adjoining ramps.

Those would have to be massive support beams. Do you know where such a configuration exists?

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The shadow of such support beams would likely have just as much detrimental effect on the park as more columns would, except that they might be a bit less prone to graffiti.

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