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Author Topic: vacationing to Houston  (Read 5453 times)

johndoe

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vacationing to Houston
« on: July 31, 2013, 10:51:04 PM »

I'll be visiting Houston in a few days, and am curious about any unique interchanges or other road spectacles in the area i should check out.  Ill be renting a car so i should be able to go anywhere in the nearby metro.  Thanks!
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US81

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2013, 11:46:39 PM »

Does your road interest include bridges and tunnels? The ship channel has some great crossings: Sam Houston Tollway / Beltway 8 ship channel bridge, TX 146 (Fred Hartman) bridge, and the Washburn Tunnel.  If the Lynchburg ferry still runs, it's close to the San Jacinto monument and Battleship Texas. 

I haven't been there in several years, so I don't want to make any other recommendations, but in years past, I've had some great road-geeking in Houston. Sometimes some very old road architecture is right next to some cool new stuff. Have a great trip. I'm sure we'd all enjoy a follow-up.

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MaxConcrete

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2013, 12:05:59 AM »

These would be the best freeway and street tour items

* Interstate 10 west from just inside Loop 610 to outside Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway, either direction. Houston's widest freeway for a sustained distance, completed to its current configuration in 2008.

* Drive the downtown freeway loop counterclockwise to get good views of downtown and see the interchanges, including the big interchange at US 59/IH-10 completed in 2003

* Drive SH 288 (South Freeway) northbound from Loop 610 into downtown for good views of downtown and the wide interchange with US 59 on the south side of downtown

* Drive US 59 (Southwest Freeway) from the Westpark curve into the downtown area, either direction. Near downtown this features the six arched bridges over the trench. Houston's highest freeway traffic volume is just outside the Loop. You get good views of the Uptown/Galleria area going northbound when coming over the Westpark overpass.

* Drive the West Loop (IH 610) northbound from Bellaire through the uptown area to US 290. Get a good view of the skyscrapers when coming over US 59 (Southwest Freeway). On the north end you will see early work on the huge expansion between IH 10 and US 290.

* Drive over the ship channel bridge on SH 146 from LaPorte to Baytown. This is somewhat of a drive from Houston, but it is one of the nicest cable-stayed bridges in the United States. Take SH 225 to get the bridge and you will see an impressive industrial landscape of refineries and chemical plants.

* Drive Memorial Drive inbound (eastbound) from Loop 610 to downtown. First you drive through Memorial park, then you get great views of downtown once you pass Shepherd.

Lower-priority items but still good

Drive US 59 (Eastex Freeway) from downtown to a few miles north of Loop 610, either direction. This is a very wide freeway with interesting HOV ramp connections. Possibly continue to BW8 and Bush airport to see the interchange at BW 8.

Drive the east Loop 610 over the ship channel, either direction.

There is a nice interchange at IH-45 south and Beltway 8/Sam Houston tollway. If you have time and willingness to drive, continue to the Galveston Causeway.

In Galveston drive on the Seawall from 61st Street to the east end of the island. If you are there during a non-busy period (ie not the weekend) take the free Bolivar Ferry to get some nice views.

In northwest Houston the interchange at US 290 and Beltway 8/Sam Houston tollway is impressive with its large ramps. The interchange is about to be modified as part of the US 290 widening.

In far north Houston, IH 45 from Beltway 8 to the Woodlands has a long section with 10 lanes.

The best place to drive on the beach is Surfside. If you are interested, I can provide more info.

Drive on Kirby through River Oaks to see Houson's most prestigious neighborhood.

Drive on the streets around Rice University to see streets with nice Oak Canopies.

Drive Westheimer from Loop 610 to west of Beltway 8/Sam Houston tollway to see Houston's main commercial strip. Watch out for traffic near the Galleria.

Drive on Post Oak road from Loop 610 to Richmond to see the heart of the Uptown area. It is best to avoid heavy traffic periods.

Be advised that Houston street pavement quality can be horrible! Always be on the lookout for potholes.

NE2

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2013, 01:52:11 AM »

Is the Elysian Viaduct still standing?
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Avalanchez71

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2013, 01:55:12 PM »

Wait Houston is a tourist destination?  What is there to see?
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rte66man

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2013, 06:03:40 PM »

Be advised that Houston street pavement quality can be horrible! Always be on the lookout for potholes.

Amen to that! Nearly broke a front axle hitting a pothole on Chimney Rock in Bellaire.  Couldn't see it due to the 5 o'clock shadows.  Ditto for Kirby southbound, Fondren anywhere, etc.

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TXtoNJ

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2013, 06:14:45 PM »

Wait Houston is a tourist destination?  What is there to see?


Lots of great food to begin with. If you're into the arts, Houston has a lot to offer as well. And, for roadgeeks, an insane amount of infrastructure.
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Urban Prairie Schooner

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2013, 07:52:38 PM »

Wait Houston is a tourist destination?  What is there to see?

Freeways!!! and Sines!!!

Quote
Be advised that Houston street pavement quality can be horrible! Always be on the lookout for potholes.

Ain't that the truth! I thought I had made a wrong turn and wound up in New Orleans - some of the roadways are that bad. Tearing up the streets for the light rail extensions doesn't help matters, either. Major contrast to the overall high quality of the freeway system (which of course is state maintained as opposed to the surface streets which I assume are largely city maintained). Is it due to a lack of funding or just a matter of the city government having different/more pressing priorities?
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MaxConcrete

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2013, 11:37:35 PM »

Quote
Is it due to a lack of funding or just a matter of the city government having different/more pressing priorities?

Almost surely a lack of funding and the sheer number of crumbling streets in the sprawling city. I've seen reports which attributed much of the recent decline in quality to the severe drought of 2011, the worst single-year drought on record. Houston's soil (actually, clay) shrinks when dry, wreaking havoc on pavement.

For example, in southwest Houston where I live, all the main streets are in bad condition and some are horrible. There is a $25 million project to totally rebuild about two miles of Bellaire Boulevard to have 7 lanes.
http://www.bellaireconstructionproject.com/
That's a staggering $12.5 million per mile. Multiply that times at least a hundred miles of very bad streets and you see the problem. At least we'll have one decent street in my area....but the rest will probably remain as-is indefinitely.

But I don't quite think Houston is as bad as New Orleans. I did some driving around the Garden district area and the streets were horrible. It could be that suburban areas are better.

Perfxion

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2013, 06:46:40 AM »

If you are into off roading, Houston streets are a good alternative due to how many potholes are on them. You feel like you are growing through a forest with how bad the roads are. Outside of Houston in its metro area are better.

Anyone going to Houston, stay away from 290 on the weekends, they have closed part of the highway down for the road construction, and I think the feeder as well.
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Urban Prairie Schooner

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2013, 08:42:04 AM »

But I don't quite think Houston is as bad as New Orleans. I did some driving around the Garden district area and the streets were horrible. It could be that suburban areas are better.

I agree, Houston has nothing on New Orleans in terms of bad streets overall. Since Katrina, recovery money has been used for badly needed reconstruction of various major streets including Robert E. Lee, Carrollton, Magazine, Elysian Fields, etc. which I would wager is the first time since the 1950s that many of these roadways have received a new coat of asphalt. But yes, the side streets are overall still terrible. The reasons are similar to Houston's - compacting clay due to drainage of wetlands, which is also the reason about half of the city is infamously below sea level; and a city budget that is already stretched from other priorities (public safety in particular). One thing to note is that this is confined to the city proper - the outlying suburbs generally have good quality streets.

In Houston's case, I figured in a city of 667 square miles or so that the sheer number of roadways to maintain is also a contributing factor.
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johndoe

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2013, 04:42:44 PM »

Thanks for all the suggestions, ill have to see what is nearby.  Just came in today (via Bush) and came sw on 59 through many interesting interchanges.  Sadly, ill be driving the whole time so ill be unable to see all the details.  The HOV intechanges are cool, im not used to those.  Saw many stack interchanges, if I remember right going through 8 / 59 was quite a tall ramp.  Also went through some quick rainstorms!  Thanks again and ill let you know what i see.
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FreewayDan

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2013, 11:28:43 PM »

Just be careful when it comes to the toll roads in Houston.  There are four in the Houston area that only accept EZ Tags (or TollTag from DFW and TxDOT's TxTag): (1) Westpark Tollway, (2) Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road (south of Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway), (3) the northeast segment of the Sam Houston Tollway (I-69/U.S. 59 to U.S. 90) and (4) Grand Parkway (SH 99) in Chambers County.  Some entry and exit ramps on the Hardy and Sam Houston are EZ TAG ONLY as well

https://www.hctra.org/tollroads_map/
http://www.texastollways.com/statehighway99/map.php
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johndoe

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2013, 09:59:53 PM »

Bit of an update:  Seen some cool stuff over the past few days, and a few interesting things.

One question...whats up with the two red lights (seen both balls and arrows)?  Just to let driver know they're in left turn lane ?

The metroline is interesting, there are a few weird spots with lane assignments.  Here's one such spot.
http://oi40.tinypic.com/296f32h.jpg

Heres a cool bridge by the Kemah boardwalk:
http://oi43.tinypic.com/2apx7t.jpg
« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 10:07:11 PM by johndoe »
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ethanhopkin14

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2013, 01:24:55 AM »

I have always thought the US 59/I-45 interchange is very interesting, particularly on US 59 going northbound.  You exit to the center of the freeway and then exit again to get onto north or south Interstate 45.
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Perfxion

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #15 on: August 08, 2013, 07:50:20 PM »

That is a pic on Fannin, and that isn't the worst part. It isn't crossing the train lines for a left turn that is bad. Its the waiting on the train lines to turn left that are the kicker.
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johndoe

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Re: vacationing to Houston
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2013, 08:18:37 PM »

That is a pic on Fannin, and that isn't the worst part. It isn't crossing the train lines for a left turn that is bad. Its the waiting on the train lines to turn left that are the kicker.

Yeah I did see some of that!  I didn't watch closely enough to see how the timing works, but it must be unique.  Also it must be strange to see a train in your rearview mirror!

Overall I wasn't really all that impressed by the signal timings.  Seemed like a lot of split phasing and really long cycle lengths.
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