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MaxConcrete last won the day on March 18 2017

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  1. The pollution issue is greatly over-exaggerated. Going forward there will be more electric cars (no pollution) and hybrids (much less pollution) in the vehicle fleet. This tollway will have minimal or negligible trucks, which pollute much more than cars. I recently lived alongside the Sam Houston Tollway for several years near an overpass and my opinion is that pollution from a freeway is a non-issue. Noise was also a non-issue except during usual wind conditions, although the tollway has a low-noise asphalt overlay in that area (Jersey Village). The use of an expensive freeway cap for about 1.3 km is a huge violation of good judgement and responsible financial management. The main reasons to build a cap are to 1) Add park space where land is scarce or unavailable, and 2) if the freeway goes through the middle of an established neighborhood, to maintain connectivity. Neither condition exists. There is an abundance of vacant land in the area, and many vacant parcels are being repurposed to parks as part of this project. The freeway cap adds a super-expensive 100 feet of width to the park, which brings the park to be alongside the heavily trafficked railroad. That makes no sense. There is also no need to "connect" neighborhoods because of the triple-track railroad. Obviously the railroad is a permanent barrier. And the east side of the railroad has a large scrap yard, a truck yard and a warehouse. The visioning enhancements, especially the trench and cap, will add massively to the cost, possibly $200 million or more. And that may be the intent of Harris County Commissioners Court. They (especially Hidalgo, but excluding Tom Ramsey) would rather spent toll revenue on enhancements than on the toll roads. They could also lower tolls further (more than 10% as was done in 2023) if there is surplus revenue.
  2. Seeing that plaque makes me realize that the City of Houston seems to have abandoned the idea of street intersection grade separations after 1962. I can't think of any strict street-to-street separations financed by CoH since then. (I can think of at least 3 involving railroads: South Post Oak at US 90A (circa 1984), Buffalo Speedway at Holmes (recent) and Westpark near Weslayan (circa 1980s).) The only recent strict street intersection grade separations I can think of is FM 1960 at Kuykendahl, which was a TxDOT project. Bellfort at Holmes and Almeda was paid for by TxDOT, and also involves a railroad. There's an overpass being built at FM 1960 and West Lake Houston Parkway, which is also a TxDOT project. In the 1970s I remember hearing about plans for a grade separation at Westheimer and Hillcroft/Voss. Of course that never happened. More recently I remember seeing a project listing for a separation at Wesheimer and Gessner. I'll be surprised if that actually happens.
  3. Actually, there is a press report which quotes the owner of Reunion Tower saying it would be "sacrificed". https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/politics/reunion-tower-could-be-sacrificed-dallas-high-speed-rail-plan/287-08706a39-e74f-4913-842c-a3452c8192b0 The meaning of the word "sacrifice" isn't clear. Does it mean financially diminished? Does it mean the owner would want to demolish it? Someone could infer the owner would be inclined to demolish the tower if its value is greatly reduced. The renderings from the Dallas Morning News show the elevated rail line coming very close to the tower and hotel, but not requiring its demolition. The WFAA news report says that officials are still quoting $30 billion for Houston to Dallas. The $30 billion number has been used for several years, even though highway construction costs are up around 50% in the last two years. They mention a minimum of $6 billion for Dallas to Fort Worth, which is a minimum of $200 million per mile, which seems low because it includes long tunnels. There is a controversy raging in Dallas about Texas Central. To make a long story short, the tentative plans for the Dallas to Fort Worth section include tunnels for Arlington and Fort Worth, but an elevated structure for Dallas, and Dallas officials say they also should have a tunnel. What's most bewildering about all this is that everyone in North Texas is acting as if Texas Central is actually going to be built. It surely isn't viable as a private entity, and I don't see any way even half of the cost will be covered by the federal government. So this is probably a big fuss about something that won't even happen.
  4. I drive past the home site occasionally. A few months ago it looked like all the concrete work was done, which includes a tall chimney. I noticed some apparent cracks in the front sections of concrete, and some kind of orange foam filler filling small gaps within the concrete sections. All the major equipment was removed from the site, including the towers and gantry for the concrete "print head". The next phase of work would be everything else (beyond concrete work), including the second floor, construction between the concrete sections (which are the sections with windows in the depiction), and the interior. I drove past the site today. No work has been done since my visit a few months ago - it's still just the four or five concrete sections with empty space between them. The site is still fenced, but the entrance gate is knocked over so anyone can walk in. I'm inclined to think the site is inactive or abandoned, otherwise the gate would be fixed. I have no information about the actual status, but work appears to be suspended since sometime in the second half of 2023. Problems can be expected when doing something for the first time. Perhaps there were problems which are a show-stopper for continuing the construction. (Maybe the cracks? Maybe being much more expensive and labor-intensive than expected?) I won't be surprised if this project is not finished. If it is not finished, the completed concrete will eventually need to be demolished.
  5. While Houston-to-Dallas high speed is uncertain and seems very unlikely to be built, NCTCOG is continuing its study of extending it from Dallas to Fort Worth. Recent updates on the study web site show around 10 miles of tunnels on the alignment along I-30, about 7 miles in Arlington and 3 miles leading into downtown Fort Worth. In addition, the Arlington station is slated to be underground. At Thursday's NCTCOG meeting, a Dallas representative demanded that Dallas also get a tunnel, which would be super expensive if it goes under the Trinity River. Of course building tunnels is ridiculously expensive in the United States, probably at least $500 million per mile. A transit tunnel in Austin was canceled when the cost was estimated at $1 billion per mile. I assume there will be a new cost estimate for the Dallas-to-Fort Worth section at the end of the study in about a year, and I'm sure it will be shockingly high. All this proposed tunneling seems like a poison pill to me. It will escalate the project cost out of control and make it financially infeasible. This study by NCTCOG is almost surely a moot exercise, but a good source of revenue for consultants.
  6. On November 17, Texas Central provided the H-GAC TPC a status update about the high speed rail project between Houston and Dallas. There was no "new" news, but a few tidbits of interest. * The official status (previously known) is that Texas Central is cooperating with Amtrak "seeking opportunities to advance planning and analysis work associated with the proposed Dallas-Houston 205 mph high-speed rail project to further determine its viability." Texas Central and Amtrak are "evaluating partnerships to further study and potentially advance the project". Transit industry veteran Andy Byford recently joined Amtrak to coordinate high speed rail initiatives for Amtrak. * The Texas Central representative mentioned the previously disclosed estimated cost of $30 billion. A TPC member mentioned $40 billion. * The Texas Central representative says there are 16 million trips per year between Houston and Dallas. (43,800 per day) * Texas Central has 6 employees and a new CEO Michael Bowie * There was discussion of who actually owns Texas Central now. The Texas Central representative was vague, but said that FTI consulting group now owns it. According to the FTI web site, they seem to do anything and everything, and are not focused on infrastructure. * There was discussion of the 2019 H-GAC MOU (memorandum or understanding) between H-GAC and Texas Central. The MOU mentions no public funding, and a TPC member mentioned it is obsolete and needs to be reviewed. * There was discussion about the Environmental Impact Statement, and if it conforms to new flood standards in the Houston area. * The Texas Central representative said that Amtrak will complete its "due diligence" in about 6 months, and we can expect some more information in that time frame. In Dallas-Fort Worth, NCTCOG is continuing with its study of the section between Dallas and Fort Worth, and a newsletter was just released. My observations * The $30 billion cost number is more than two years old. Highway construction costs are up 56% in the last two years. I think 40+ billion is probably more realistic. In my opinion, an updated cost estimate should be Amtrak's top priority. If they don't get a new cost estimate, then they won't have any credibility because they can't do any analysis without the cost number. * The entire project was contingent on a very low interest rate. With 30-year treasury bonds at 4.6%, it seems to me that project bonds would need to be at least 7% to get investors. If the project is $40 billion, that's $2.8 billion in interest per year. * When Texas Central started, the cost was estimated at $12 billion and interest rates were very low. Now it is probably 40+ billion and interest rates are very high. It seems to me that the only conclusion Amtrak's "due diligence" can reach is that this project can only be done with government funding. * Interstate 45 near Centerville has a traffic counts of 39000 to 41000 per day. So the Texas Central number of 43,000 per day is realistic. The question is, what percant of those trips could become train trips? * Just for illustration, let's say 50% of the trips switch to rail. (Of course it will be much less than 50%, but this is an illustrative calculation). $2800 million in interest divided by 8 million = $350 interest cost for every boarding! Obviously this cannot be a private project at $40 billion construction expense and 7% interest. There would need to be some kind of government-supplied below-market interest rate. Even at 2% interest, the interest cost per boarding is still $100 for the hypothetical 50% traffic capture. * Andy Byford at Amtrak really has only 2 choices for true high speed rail in the U.S.: California and Texas. (It will be impossible to build a new high-speed right-of-way in the Northeast corridor.) * The financial status of the federal government is shockingly bad. There's no recession or emergency or military conflict, but the budget deficit was $1.7 trillion in the recent fiscal year, which is 6.3% of GDP. Interest cost was $659 billion. At some point (probably sooner rather than later), the federal government will need to drastically curtail free money giveaways and wasteful spending.
  7. The Honolulu rail project is one of the biggest fiascos in public transit in the United States. It's a cautionary story for any city looking to build trains. As mentioned previously, it is massively over budget and extremely late. According to an online report, "Operational readiness is slated for March of 2031." https://www.khon2.com/local-news/hart-honolulu-rail-route-to-civic-center-costs-9-9b/ The most recent info I can find is that 19 miles will cost $10 billion, or $526 million per mile. This is more than double the original budget. Finishing the last mile (apparently currently unfunded) is another $1.3 billion. https://www.hawaiibusiness.com/hart-history-hawaii-rail-project-when-finished-budget/ Honolulu is not a subway, it is mostly on elevated track. The cost of Austin's planned system was recently raised from $5.8 billion to $10.3 billion, with the tunnel section now projected to cost $978 million per mile. Of course, public transit ridership collapsed due to Covid, and nationally is still down around 33% compared to pre-Covid levels. Bottom line: rail transit is obscenely expensive and has low ridership. It's much wiser to build resources that are much less expensive and can be used by multiple modes, including buses, carpools and SOVs. That means managed lanes, as TxDOT is trying to build on the North Freeway.
  8. Widening highways doesn't eliminate traffic congestion, but it reduces it (often drastically), and also empowers improved mobility and economic growth. In a growing area, you normally can't eliminate all traffic congestion in a corridor with heavy employment and economic activity. But you can drastically reduce it, and limit it to only the peak periods. The Katy Freeway accomplished that. Before the expansion it was congested throughout the day and on weekends. Now it is congested only at peak periods on weekdays, and less congested at peak periods than pre-expansion. Plus, everyone has the option of using the managed lanes. It has empowered mobility for Houstonians that was previously not possible. The Katy Freeway at Gessner serves 349,000 trips per day, which is down from the pre-Covid high of 388,000. Trips served on the entire corridor is much greater. For comparison, in September 2022 Metro served 208,000 weekday boardings on its ENTIRE system on all modes (bus, rail, park & ride). The expansion has empowered economic growth, including Memorial, Town & Country and Katy and beyond. There are many reasons freeways need to be expanded, including 1. Accommodating population growth 2. Accommodating and promoting economic growth 3. Improving access to new housing 4. Reducing the amount of congestion 5. Improving mobility for Houstonians 6. Providing managed lanes as an option, which is also used by public transit 7. Bringing outdated freeways up to modern standards
  9. That's interesting, I'm going to drive to Emnora lane to see it. As the article notes, it remains to be seen if 3-D printing will become viable for new home construction. But I'm glad to see some new technology being tried. The basics of home construction have changed very little in a very long time (100 years or more). Other countries make more use of prefabricated components to reduce cost and improve quality. Many third-world countries have higher standards for home construction (more concrete-based) than the United States. *******************UPDATE******************** The site is on Emnora Street about 0.5 mile east of Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Tollway), on the southwest corner at Shadowdale. Emnora connects to the BW 8 frontage road. The neighborhood appears to lack deed restrictions, since some properties have fenced front yards and parking in the front yard. The lot is about 8000 square feet. The banner on the fence proclaims this to be the first two-floor printed house in the United States, and lists numerous sponsors. Unfortunately I forgot my phone and camera when I drove by. The house construction extends almost to the rear edge of the property, leaving almost no back yard. There are four towers to support the frame with the printing "head". Each of these towers has a concrete pad. There are two more unused pads toward the front of the property, presumably for when the front half of the house is built. There is a scaffold structure on the front (street) side of the current construction zone, presumably for a good view of the work zone and the machine, maybe for directing the concrete supply. There is also a small concrete mixer on site, and numerous large packages of quick-crete. The number of hours of concrete printing (220) seems large. As the photos suggest, it all looks like it came out of a caulk gun. In my opinion, this is going to be less attractive than a traditional brick facade. My conclusion it that 3D home printing is unlikely to be the wave of the future. Even it it can be industrialized and made economical, it will still be less attractive than a brick home.
  10. See item 7.1 in the agenda for today's NCTCOG meeting https://kentico-admin.nctcog.org/getmedia/9af64da6-ce3c-4017-9cd2-b007bd0b551e/agendapacketaugust2022.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf Director Michael Morris is now proposing high speed rail as a more traditional government-funded asset with private operations, similar to many airports. This seems to be further evidence that Texas Central won't be able to move the project forward with its private funding plan. It also appears to suggest that (in the current political climate) federal money would be more readily accessible for a government-owned project. And it definitely addresses the reality that property taxes on a privately-owned high-speed rail corridor would be a major expense contributing to project infeasibility. Competition would likely give consumers more options and lower prices. Does anyone know of high speed train lines elsewhere that have multiple service providers? It also makes me wonder if the different train technologies are compatible, or if a specific technology would need to be selected (and all service providers would use it). I can't envision the State of Texas spending any state funds on this project. I don't know of any other way the non-federal share of costs, which would be in the billions and probably $10+ billion, could be covered.
  11. NCTCOG Director Michael Morris spoke about the project at today's meeting. Agenda item 4, starting at 12:22 "You'll be hearing in the next few weeks that the high speed rail Dallas to Houston may be morphed into Dallas to Fort Worth. Lots of meetings are going on with regard to what I'm calling high speed rail version 2.0. Be prepared for advancing the RTC position of a one-seat ride potentially going from Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas and to Houston." So it sounds like there is ongoing activity, and the project is not moribund as the recent reports suggested. The first part of Morris' statement initially made me think it could be downsized to Dallas to Fort Worth, but then he mentioned Houston in the second part of the statement. Of course the biggest challenge will still be to raise the funding in the current environment with higher interest rates.
  12. The are no existing plans to improve the interchange at 610 and the Gulf Freeway. However, the Gulf Freeway corridor has a study in progress to determine future improvements. https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/get-involved/about/hearings-meetings/houston/071222.html
  13. Texas Central posted a statement on their web site https://www.texascentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Press-Release-Texas-Central-Partners-Comments-on-Recent-Developments.pdf “We thank the Court for its recent thoughtful and considered review of this matter and appreciate the continued support of our investors, lenders, and other key stakeholders, as we continue to advance this important project. Texas Central has made significant strides in the project over the last several years and we are moving forward on a path that we believe will ensure the project’s successful development. We look forward to being able to say more about this at an appropriate time in the near future.” This creates the impression that pronouncements of Texas Central's demise were premature. I'll update this thread title.
  14. If Levcor wants credibility, they should update the text of that page. It is at least 5 years out of date.
  15. Texas Central appeared to be on life support recently, unable to pay its bills. With this report, I think we can pronounce the project as DEAD. https://thetexan.news/texas-central-high-speed-rail-ceo-carlos-aguilar-announces-departure/ The recent inflation probably put the final nails in the coffin. Bids for large TxDOT projects are up around 33% in just the last few months. Texas Central was always too expensive to be financially feasible in any realistic analysis. Add another 33% to the cost and you can forget about it.
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