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Author Topic: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild  (Read 1312 times)

MaxConcrete

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Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« on: September 21, 2018, 07:54:45 PM »

The City of Houston held public meetings in the past month to show their plans for urban development in association with the upcoming work to totally rebuild all downtown freeways.

See the presentation links under the project documents section: http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/nhhip/index.html

There is no change to the highway plan. The presentations are quite lengthy but three points of interest are

1) The existing railroad bridge across the IH10/IH45 multiplex on the northwest side of downtown is slated to be removed and replaced with a bridge further south that will consolidate two east-west railroad corridors on the north side of downtown.
The existing bridge is the "Be Someone" bridge, so-called because that phrase has been inscribed on the bridge by graffiti artists. It is somewhat of a local icon. Since the new plans remove the bridge entirely, the Be Someone message will have to find a new home.

2) The City of Houston is in support of an elevated park on the to-be-abandoned Pierce Elevated. This is a big step, since COH will have to pay for the park, called Pierce Skypark. If it happens, as far as I know this would be the first conversion of an elevated freeway into a park in the U.S.

3) The plan envisions a very long and expensive deck park over the new IH69/IH45 multiplex on the east side of downtown, along with plenty of new development along the corridor.

4) All of this is going to be very expensive, I'm thinking between $500 million and $1 billion. If all of the park ideas actually happen, I think it will play out over a long period of time.


Freeway work is slated to begin in 2020. A ROD has not yet been issued. As usual, getting the ROD is taking longer than expected.

Official TxDOT project site: http://www.ih45northandmore.com/

Site promoting the Pierce Elevated Park http://pierceelevatedpark.com/
« Last Edit: September 21, 2018, 07:58:10 PM by MaxConcrete »
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sparker

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2018, 01:59:31 AM »

^^^^^^^
If the final plans reflect the graphic visualizations, I don't see this project coming in at under $1.25B.  Just the structures alone will account for about half of that cost.  And the property acquisition, particularly along those portions with tow overlapping facilities with separate carriageways, will be enormous, especially in the more densely developed neighborhoods.  I just hope I live long enough to be able to drive on this thing! 
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MantyMadTown

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2018, 03:19:25 AM »

I like the idea. I just want to see a map of the project overlaid onto the old freeways.
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2018, 02:00:22 PM »

^^^^^^^
If the final plans reflect the graphic visualizations, I don't see this project coming in at under $1.25B.  Just the structures alone will account for about half of that cost.  And the property acquisition, particularly along those portions with tow overlapping facilities with separate carriageways, will be enormous, especially in the more densely developed neighborhoods.  I just hope I live long enough to be able to drive on this thing! 

In the recently-approved UTP, the downtown work has $3.07 billion in funding allocated. Other documents list right-of-way acquisition cost at $507 million, which is mostly the major clearance on the east side of downtown.
http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/tpp/utp/2019/utp-2019.pdf

I would not be surprised to see the cost rise to the $3.5 to $4 billion range, which of course excludes the parks and enhancements proposed by the City of Houston.

MaxConcrete

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2018, 02:05:16 PM »

I like the idea. I just want to see a map of the project overlaid onto the old freeways.

The closest you can get to an "overlay" is the schematic, which of course obscures the existing layout in most places. But you can easily see where the alignment has been shifted on the northeast and northwest sides of downtown.

http://www.ih45northandmore.com/docs9/20180521_NHHIP_Seg3_Overview_Layout_PH_1-1.pdf
« Last Edit: September 23, 2018, 06:57:01 PM by MaxConcrete »
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MantyMadTown

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2018, 04:06:00 PM »

It certainly doesn't help that they don't point to north on the map even though north isn't up.
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nexus73

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2018, 06:30:33 PM »

"Be Someone".  It would be pretty cool to see inspirational messages on freeway overpasses where no other signage is present.  Chip Kelly's mantra at the University of Oregon was "Win The Day".  Even though I am a Beaver fan, it still came across as a great slogan.  What slogan would you other members consider good enough to place up?

Rick
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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2018, 05:10:03 PM »

Wow, that is ambitious.
I'm a little surprised they're retaining as much of the old I-45 as they are.  Houston's not exactly known for its waterfront, but that's because there's a freeway looming over it.  And the plan keeps that.
I get you need to move vehicles in and out of downtown, but is that stub really going to be worth it?
Seems like there's an opportunity to open up a buttload of green space in the core of a major city and it's being passed on.  If part of the point is to remove a redundant freeway, then you know, why keep more than half of it?
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MantyMadTown

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2018, 07:06:40 PM »

Wow, that is ambitious.
I'm a little surprised they're retaining as much of the old I-45 as they are.  Houston's not exactly known for its waterfront, but that's because there's a freeway looming over it.  And the plan keeps that.
I get you need to move vehicles in and out of downtown, but is that stub really going to be worth it?
Seems like there's an opportunity to open up a buttload of green space in the core of a major city and it's being passed on.  If part of the point is to remove a redundant freeway, then you know, why keep more than half of it?

Why does Houston need a waterfront? It's not exactly on the coast, and it's not on a major lake or river.
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2018, 11:57:37 PM »

Wow, that is ambitious.
I'm a little surprised they're retaining as much of the old I-45 as they are.  I get you need to move vehicles in and out of downtown, but is that stub really going to be worth it?

The rebuilt freeway on the alignment of IH-45 on the west side of downtown is called the downtown connector.

Traffic on the main downtown streets going (approximately) north-south can be quite severe, particularly in the evening. In fact, when I went to the public meeting held by the City of Houston, Louisiana Street was near gridlock and it took a long time just to around 10 blocks. 

So to answer your question, the downtown streets would not be able to handle the extra traffic that would result from elimination of the downtown connector.

In_Correct

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2018, 04:25:45 AM »

Wow, that is ambitious.
I'm a little surprised they're retaining as much of the old I-45 as they are.  Houston's not exactly known for its waterfront, but that's because there's a freeway looming over it.  And the plan keeps that.
I get you need to move vehicles in and out of downtown, but is that stub really going to be worth it?
Seems like there's an opportunity to open up a buttload of green space in the core of a major city and it's being passed on.  If part of the point is to remove a redundant freeway, then you know, why keep more than half of it?

You shall have plenty of Green Space with Pierce Elevated conversion.
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longhorn

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2018, 03:30:28 PM »

http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/nhhip/west/presentation-west.pdf

Powerpoint presentation on turning a portion of the I-45 into Houston's Highline.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2018, 01:18:35 PM »

I have a few notes and questions about this project.

First off, what a great project. I wouldnít mind seeing a few more lanes in each direction added for future growth, but Iím like that with about every project. This should help immensely with traffic flow! I love the managed lanes integrated in this whole thing. This could very well be the most complex freeway setup I know of when itís all said and done.

I wish Los Angeles would take note of this project and do the same thing downtown. There is room, it would just have to be more vertical. Hell maybe even a few tunnels. One can dream right. Maybe some day LA will invest heavily in its freeways again.

As for the rerouting of I-45, good compromise and smart move by TxDOT. This is different than Dallas situation with 345 and wonít impact things much. Should actually be better for the community. Not sure how much I like the idea of building an elevated park on it, but it could work. Iím not really against the idea, just not a huge fan of it. If it were me Iíd just tear it down and build a linear park with light rail and one or two lanes in each direction and call it a day.

Side note: thinking of that idea got me looking into Houstonís metro rail authority plans and I had no idea how small Houstonís network was. For some reason I was under the impression it was much larger. Houston needs to get on the ball. Elevated heavy rail should be a seriously considered addition to Htown Metro as subway would be too prone to flooding. It already appears the red line has decent ridership numbers, so no reason to think a few more strategically placed lines couldnít achieve the same. Only a BRT project and single light rail extension study in the works. Houston can do better than that!

What is the timeline for this project? Starts in 2020 but this seems like a very large project. Could be one of the largest in TxDOTís history easily. Will all segments be U/C simultaneously?

This is good stuff! I donít know about San Antonio, but Dallas has a couple segments around itís core and obviously Austin has I-35 issue but once those are taken care of every major city in Texas will have a pretty good freeway setup around their cores. Fort Worth seems to have theirs in pretty good order now. Thatís not something a lot of states can say. Oklahoma has OKCís in decent shape though I-44/I-40 interchange needs a complete rework and Tulsa needs complete redesign and reconstruction.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2018, 10:34:19 AM by Plutonic Panda »
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txstateends

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2018, 01:41:16 AM »

From what I've heard, Houston is more car-centered than DFW is; I'm amazed they even have 1 transit rail line route.  Yes, they could use more, but unless at least 1/2 to 3/4 of the TPTBs/TIICs (whichever is more applicable) suddenly were brainwashed or replaced with transit-friendly decision-makers, I would think it would be quite the uphill battle to get more Houston Metro rail routes built and available.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2018, 10:30:41 AM »

My first thought was the fact that Dallas has several light rail lines and is building/planning two new ones. The cotton belt corridor will be nice as it will be representative of a more true transit network instead of only having lines going in and out of the core, it will stretch across across parts of North Dallas connecting to a couple existing lines. Their subway I wish would be a true subway with heavy rail but it will be a light rail tunnel. Good stuff though I still wish even they had more planned than just that. I know there are a couple commuter rail projects in the works for DFW.

I just thought Houston had more rail than that. Do they even have commuter rail?
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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2018, 11:13:13 AM »

I just thought Houston had more rail than that. Do they even have commuter rail?

Apple Maps says there are red, green, and purple lines, and the only other rail line in the area is Amtrak; no commuter rail.
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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2018, 03:28:36 PM »

Houston is big on express buses using the reversible HOV lanes on most radial freeways.

from http://www.ridemetro.org/MetroPDFs/NBN/New-METRO-System-Map.pdf
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #17 on: October 03, 2018, 03:35:49 PM »

^^^ thanks for posting that. Iím going to research Houstonís transit more tonight. Iím interested in seeing their daily ridership. That express bus network is indeed expansive.
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2018, 07:10:04 PM »

^^^ thanks for posting that. Iím going to research Houstonís transit more tonight. Iím interested in seeing their daily ridership. That express bus network is indeed expansive.

You can peruse this link
https://www.ridemetro.org/Pages/RidershipReport-082018.aspx
and you will see the dismal ridership for Houston's newest light rail lines, the Green and Purple lines, which opened around 2015 and cost $1.4 billion, or around $150 million per mile.
The Green line has 5030 weekday boardings, and the Purple line as 5881 weekday boardings. That amount of ridership could *easily* have been handled by much less expensive options.

The Red line, opened around 2004, has better ridership but is probably the only corridor in Houston which could have decent ridership.

Dallas' extensive light rail network, around 90 miles, also has very low ridership, around 100K boardings per day the last time I checked.

Generally speaking for Houston and Dallas, rail lines are obscenely expensive and have so little ridership that the transportation benefit is negligible.

So the worst thing Houston can do is waste more money on rail lines. On that subject, there is good news/bad news, depending on your perspective.

Metro's new plan for 2040, called MetroNext, is proposing 15 more miles of light rail estimated to cost $1.5 billion (which seems very low, considering that light rail built five years ago cost $150 million per mile). On the good news side, routes which were originally contemplated as light rail are now slated for bus rapid transit, and there could have been far more light rail proposed. On the bad news side, it's still a waste of $1.5 billion.

MantyMadTown

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #19 on: October 03, 2018, 08:57:43 PM »

^^^ thanks for posting that. Iím going to research Houstonís transit more tonight. Iím interested in seeing their daily ridership. That express bus network is indeed expansive.

You can peruse this link
https://www.ridemetro.org/Pages/RidershipReport-082018.aspx
and you will see the dismal ridership for Houston's newest light rail lines, the Green and Purple lines, which opened around 2015 and cost $1.4 billion, or around $150 million per mile.
The Green line has 5030 weekday boardings, and the Purple line as 5881 weekday boardings. That amount of ridership could *easily* have been handled by much less expensive options.

The Red line, opened around 2004, has better ridership but is probably the only corridor in Houston which could have decent ridership.

Dallas' extensive light rail network, around 90 miles, also has very low ridership, around 100K boardings per day the last time I checked.

Generally speaking for Houston and Dallas, rail lines are obscenely expensive and have so little ridership that the transportation benefit is negligible.

So the worst thing Houston can do is waste more money on rail lines. On that subject, there is good news/bad news, depending on your perspective.

Metro's new plan for 2040, called MetroNext, is proposing 15 more miles of light rail estimated to cost $1.5 billion (which seems very low, considering that light rail built five years ago cost $150 million per mile). On the good news side, routes which were originally contemplated as light rail are now slated for bus rapid transit, and there could have been far more light rail proposed. On the bad news side, it's still a waste of $1.5 billion.

I hate when people regard improving public transportation as a "waste". Even if light rail isn't feasible for Houston (because it doesn't see the ridership), BRT can still be helpful for those without a car. I don't want Houston to have bad public transit for a city that large.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #20 on: October 03, 2018, 09:58:23 PM »

Iím about as pro highway as it gets but I still support mass transit even if it has to be heavily subsidized. I donít expect Houston to have a transit system that rivals NYC but think some rail would be good for Houston. BRT at the least.
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MantyMadTown

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2018, 04:31:40 AM »

^^^^^
Pretty much.
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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2018, 10:31:09 AM »

I think it'll be interesting to see them pull off an elevated park over Pierce Street.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Houston: urban planning for the complete downtown freeway rebuild
« Reply #23 on: October 04, 2018, 10:44:38 AM »

^^^ that hasnít been decided yet, no?
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