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Houston: Hardy Toll Road extension status

Started by MaxConcrete, April 08, 2016, 11:21:00 PM

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The side ROW parks are fine, but this may be the most ridiculous 'Freeway cap' proposal I've ever seen.  The primary reason given for caps has been that freeways divide and thus capping would reconnect neighborhoods.  But there is nothing to connect with these caps, they are are entirely lined to the east with a wall of warehouses in an industrial park and then a noisy, busy, 3 track ground level freight railroad for the longer remaining length.  There is nothing I've seen suggesting a plan to also bury the rail lines below grade and cap, which the railroads would refuse to fund.  They don't want the flood risks shutting them down, and it wouldn't even be technically possible south of Quitman because they will not sign off on any grade over 1%.

So this is really about creating about 100' more width for the parks in the most expensive way possible.  Because "All the cool kids are doing freeway caps" and here's the perfect scheme for local politicians to extort someone else to pay for their toys.  I am certain a part of the motivation is to insure that this segment of the tollway won't ever be able to expand as a result.  Both from the cost of widening a capped road and, once the cap and parks are built they can run with, "You're trying to steal our parks!"

And short-sighted, because it appears to also blocks off a future commuter rail trunk line into downtown that could potentially have branched off in 5 directions north of 610 (and possibly extending any future high speed rail from DFW and Austin/SA coming in on 290, through downtown, and up to Bush airport via the wide powerline ROW along the Hardy north of 610.)  All that is needed would be a 50' easement on the east edge, next to the warehouse park and freight rail line.  But by pushing the tollway and cap to the far edge to make the park 50' wider it leaves such a possible future rail line with just very expensive or politically impossible options.  Now they will be forced to run elevated over the freight line, which could make the project too expensive to ever happen.  And that would include then having to rise to almost 50' above ground to get over the Collingworth overpass over the freight line, possible future overpasses at Calvacade and Quitman, and above any future tollway connectors to I-45/69, which previous renderings showed would be built above or elevated right next to the freight line.  The higher a rail line is built, the farther the noise travels.  The other options are expensive takings of industrial and some residential properties east of the freight RR, placing such a future commuter RR on the west edge (eating up the now built parks and closest to the residences, so a political nonstarter), or up against the west side of tollway, which then isolates and negates the building of the extremely expensive caps.

I understand that the city and county have for now decided a bus network will be the regional commuter solution.  I supported that decision.  But Houston is now the second fastest growing metro in the US in actual population counts (not misleading percentage growth) so they should be planning for an eventual commuter rail network, even if it is 40 years in the future.  It would not take a lot of easements and ROW preservation to take advantage of the existing freight rail network in that regard.  In fact there was planning for that by the county 2 decades ago.  Has that been disregarded lately for political reasons?

For those that aren't very familiar with Houston, the new mayor just said the city is basically broke from decades of financial mismanagement, and will propose a 5% cut in staffing and hikes in fees and taxes.  This tollway situation is at the county level, but they also have, uh, significant 'problems'.

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