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Houston: TxDOT study recommendations reflect new reality

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MaxConcrete:
Recently TxDOT released the recommendations of studies for long-term improvements to the following
1. Interstate 45 north of Houston, from Beltway 8 to Conroe. (Beltway 8 is the north limit of NHHIP)
2. The full length of SH 225, and the section of Loop 610 from west of I-45 (Gulf Freeway) to north of Interstate 10 (East Freeway)

https://www.txdot.gov/projects/hearings-meetings/houston/i45n-pel-092623.html
https://www.txdot.gov/projects/hearings-meetings/houston/sh225-and-i610-pel-101723.html

These recommendations are from the "PEL" process, which is Planning and Environmental Linkages.

The new reality is that urban right-of-way acquisition for freeways is no longer politically feasible in Houston. In both cases elevated managed lanes were recommended to minimize and/or eliminate right-of-way acquisition.

Blocking any and all right-of-way acquisition is now the preferred anti-freeway tool for anti-freeway activists. Of course TxDOT can go up, which is what it now plans to do. But elevated lanes are more expensive, which means it will take longer to get done, or fewer projects can get done with available funding.

For the I-45 recommendation, there are numerous problems and I submitted the comments below. Realistically, I don't expect any managed lanes to be built until after NHHIP is complete, and NHHIP is scheduled to be completed at Beltway 8 in 2042. So this is a long way in the future. I may not even see it in my remaining life.

For the SH 225/Loop 610 recommendation, the presentation lacks details and is very incomplete, in my opinion.
1. No mention of where the managed lanes are actually needed. SH 225 is not known for having traffic congestion. Are the managed lanes mainly for Loop 610?
2. No mention of the interchange at Loop 610 and SH 225. This interchange was built with the assumption that SH 225 would extend westward, but of course that was canceled.
3. No mention of the interchange at Loop 610 and the Gulf Freeway. This interchange is probably the main problem spot in the entire study area, particularly backups on the Gulf Freeway south of Loop 610 caused by the interchange.
4. No mention of plans for the new Loop 610 ship channel bridge, or how managed lanes would be integrated into the bridge.
5. I think upgrading SH 225 to 4x4 for the full length would be sufficient and much less expensive. I think dismissing that option was a mistake. They justify it with a matrix which has an "x" for three objectives.
6. The Loop 610 bridge is most likely the only work which might proceed before 2040. It has a separate study which should launch soon.
7. So while I don't like the recommendations, these corridors are low priority compared to other needs in Houston, so it's fine with me that nothing will be done for a very long time.


Interstate 45 comments (submitted to TxDOT)

Alternative 2 (At Grade) would be better
I support the addition of managed lanes to Interstate 45. However, alternative 2 (add lanes at grade) would be a better preferred alternative because it
1. Provides better access to the managed lanes for drivers and emergency vehicles
2. Would probably be less expensive
TxDOT should consider a hybrid approach, bringing the managed lanes to ground level where it is feasible to acquire right-of-way. TxDOT should also recognize that the managed lanes will probably not be built before the 2040s, especially considering that NNHIP section 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2042. By the 2040s, the existing pavement may be nearing the end of its service life, so major reconstruction may be required, which would make adding lanes at grade a more feasible option.

Access to managed lanes is insufficient
For the recommended alternative, page 18 in the presentation script shows managed lane access at Beltway 8 and FM 2920. (The park and ride entrance/exit will not be suitable for most drivers.)
The distance between Beltway 8 and FM 2920 is 10 miles, which is an excessively long distance without access. As I suggest above, the managed lanes should be brought to ground level at some point in this section for access.

An additional general purpose lane can and should be added
Between Beltway 8 and FM 1960, the existing HOV is 20 feet wide, and 24 feet including barriers. The depiction on page 17 of the presentation script suggests that the support column is much narrower than 24 feet. This leaves unused space. The support columns for the managed lanes should be offset to one side, leaving sufficient space for the addition of one general-purpose traffic lane on the main lanes. This lane can be added to the northbound or southbound direction, whichever direction would get the most benefit from an additional lane.

The same principle applies north of FM 1960. The two diamond lanes use around 24 feet of width, and the elevated structure columns need only around 10 to 12 feet. The elevated structure should be offset to one side to allow the addition of a general purpose lane in one direction.

Grand Parkway Interchange
There is no mention of the Grand Parkway interchange in the presentation. Completion of the interchange including all missing connection ramps should be a short or medium-term priority. In fact, it should be among the highest priority projects.

Managed Lanes and Major interchanges
The presentation script page 17 states "Improvements at the interchanges with Beltway 8 North, State Highway 99, Hardy Toll Road, and State Highway 242 would be needed in order to accommodate the proposed elevated managed lanes."

It's not realistic and probably financially prohibitive to rebuild these interchanges. The managed lanes should go over the top of these interchanges so these interchanges can remain intact.


intelati49:
Public transit please

MaxConcrete:

--- Quote from: intelati49 on October 17, 2023, 09:18:32 PM ---Public transit please

--- End quote ---

Public transit in Houston is a financial and ridership disaster. In spite of massive spending and investments, ridership peaked in 2006 and has been in a downward trend ever since. In the most recent fiscal year, every time someone stepped on a Metro bus or train there was a taxpayer subsidy of $15.10.




intelati49:
I should have been clearer. The increase in friction of road construction *should* be the impetus of increased population density necessitating improved public transit.

How well that's implemented is WAY outside my paygrade. The post above kind of puts a damper on that enthusiasm, but I hope/wish to see a transition to something resembling Seattle

Rothman:

--- Quote from: MaxConcrete on October 17, 2023, 09:41:24 PM ---
--- Quote from: intelati49 on October 17, 2023, 09:18:32 PM ---Public transit please

--- End quote ---

Public transit in Houston is a financial and ridership disaster. In spite of massive spending and investments, ridership peaked in 2006 and has been in a downward trend ever since. In the most recent fiscal year, every time someone stepped on a Metro bus or train there was a taxpayer subsidy of $15.10.





--- End quote ---
And how much have we received back from travelers on our roads?

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