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Author Topic: Austin, TX  (Read 9803 times)

sparker

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #75 on: April 21, 2020, 07:19:44 PM »

I-14 is just a BRACC point. While you will hear ongoing discussions of expanding it, it is just that: discussion.  There is no real appetite for a cross country interstate especially one that totally misses the major cities. Oil travels by pipeline. Not highway. Copperas cove to Midland then to wherever is a lot of extra lane-miles. And doesn't change much. It still links El Paso and points west to the deep south just like I-10

I69 works because 1) congress mandated and funded it (with local matching). 2) It goes from Mexico and the Texas Gulf ports to the upper midwest. 3) US-59 was already a very busy corridor in spite of its journeys through Corrigan, Diboll, and Atlanta.

I-69, in TX and elsewhere, has no dedicated fund for development; being a high-priority corridor, it is eligible for the maximum 80% federal share (a bit more if other fund pools can be tapped) -- but like multiplying anything by zero, if those funds aren't allotted, it's still zero.  Funding comes from a state congressional delegation queueing up yearly, submitting their requests to get their projects into the yearly USDOT budgetary outlay; sometimes that quest isn't successful.  Since I-14 is also a designated HPC (#84), the funding process is technically identical.  But the mechanism for actually squeezing federal funds out for the project for I-69 has been in place since 1995 and has been reasonably successful at doing so; besides the existing 26 miles of freeway near Killeen, the portion of I-14 from Temple to Huntsville is presently undergoing an alignment study to determine a specific routing -- a very preliminary step; in that respect, that corridor's backers are more than 20 years behind the I-69 effort, which has amassed one hell of a lot of in-state support within both public and private sectors over its 25-year lifespan.  Because I-69 extends in two directions from Houston along egress corridors long sought within that city's corporate circles, it's kept in the public eye.  I-14 is just getting started; if segments are built within the "triangle", it'll start getting more notice -- but compared with the more immediate benefits promised by the I-69 (and 369 for that matter) corridor cluster, it'll draw less attention, at least until there's continuous rather than sporadic progress on I-69, particularly north of Houston.  That is to be expected; I-69, at least to Houston and environs, is considered a necessity; I-14 still falls in the "it'd be nice to have" category, a situation that will likely persist until I-69 is substantially completed.   
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bwana39

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #76 on: April 22, 2020, 11:37:25 AM »

I-14 is just a BRACC point. While you will hear ongoing discussions of expanding it, it is just that: discussion.  There is no real appetite for a cross country interstate especially one that totally misses the major cities. Oil travels by pipeline. Not highway. Copperas cove to Midland then to wherever is a lot of extra lane-miles. And doesn't change much. It still links El Paso and points west to the deep south just like I-10

I69 works because 1) congress mandated and funded it (with local matching). 2) It goes from Mexico and the Texas Gulf ports to the upper midwest. 3) US-59 was already a very busy corridor in spite of its journeys through Corrigan, Diboll, and Atlanta.

I-69, in TX and elsewhere, has no dedicated fund for development; being a high-priority corridor, it is eligible for the maximum 80% federal share (a bit more if other fund pools can be tapped) -- but like multiplying anything by zero, if those funds aren't allotted, it's still zero.  Funding comes from a state congressional delegation queueing up yearly, submitting their requests to get their projects into the yearly USDOT budgetary outlay; sometimes that quest isn't successful.  Since I-14 is also a designated HPC (#84), the funding process is technically identical.  But the mechanism for actually squeezing federal funds out for the project for I-69 has been in place since 1995 and has been reasonably successful at doing so; besides the existing 26 miles of freeway near Killeen, the portion of I-14 from Temple to Huntsville is presently undergoing an alignment study to determine a specific routing -- a very preliminary step; in that respect, that corridor's backers are more than 20 years behind the I-69 effort, which has amassed one hell of a lot of in-state support within both public and private sectors over its 25-year lifespan.  Because I-69 extends in two directions from Houston along egress corridors long sought within that city's corporate circles, it's kept in the public eye.  I-14 is just getting started; if segments are built within the "triangle", it'll start getting more notice -- but compared with the more immediate benefits promised by the I-69 (and 369 for that matter) corridor cluster, it'll draw less attention, at least until there's continuous rather than sporadic progress on I-69, particularly north of Houston.  That is to be expected; I-69, at least to Houston and environs, is considered a necessity; I-14 still falls in the "it'd be nice to have" category, a situation that will likely persist until I-69 is substantially completed.   

You are technically correct on the funding. The long term funding is not already authorized. This said, congress and US-DOT have made a comittment to follow through. Funding for a continuing project is easier to obtain than for a new project. This said, TXDOT could theorethetically scrap I-69 and spend the money somewhere else. How congress would react to that in future budgets is a different issue. It is kind of like if your family is saving up for the down payment on a house. It would either be in the checking (general) funds or savings (transportation) funds. While not legally bound, there will be repercussions if you take the money and buy an ORV or some other recreational vehicle.  Likewise with highway funds.

The HPC's are not all freeway (Such as LA1 south of Baton Rouge). On I-14, the points west might have a good rural divided highway design applied to US190 all the way to near Iraan (I-10). My belief is the portion of I-14 that exists may be extended to I-45 because of the burgeoning population of Bryan - College Station. Maybe not. By 2050 it might make it to I-69. Beyond US59/ I69 I again see at best Rural Divided Highway especially since any possible construction in Louisiana is a non-starter. More likely nothing beyond Woodville.

I also think it is naive to dismiss the powers of BRACC in getting the current section of I-14 built and numbered. While Ft Hood doesn't seem a likely target for BRACC, it is subject to missional realignment both positive and negative. When one base is closed or its mission reduced, that mission usually moves somewhere else. Part of the BRACC game is getting additional missions, not just staying open.  Texas CHOSE to spend the money to UPGRADE a relatively small stretch of  us 190 to interstate specs and to get it branded as Interstate. I am not of the opinion that extending it additionally as interstate is in the cards.

Sure they are studying it. Just because it is / was labeled a high priority corridor just means the congressional delegation had it labeled as such not that TXDOT, the State Legislature, or the people of Texas really want to upgrade it beyond a good rural divided highway.

I want a Polaris Ranger and a new house. I might get one. I might get both. I have studied the reality. I am getting NEITHER. So goes regional transportation studies. Just because you study something you want doesn't mean you get it.

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sparker

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #77 on: April 22, 2020, 03:05:39 PM »

^^^^^^^^^^^
At this juncture, this thread seems to have drifted away from Austin matters and toward the I-14 corridor, which originally was used simply for comparison in earlier thread posts.  There are a couple of specific I-14 threads that would be more appropriate for any further in-depth discussion of the various issues concerning that corridor.  I'll be replying to the above post (#76) in one of those shortly.  S.P. (sparker)
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AcE_Wolf_287

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #78 on: April 23, 2020, 07:23:57 PM »

^^^^^^^^^^^
At this juncture, this thread seems to have drifted away from Austin matters and toward the I-14 corridor, which originally was used simply for comparison in earlier thread posts.  There are a couple of specific I-14 threads that would be more appropriate for any further in-depth discussion of the various issues concerning that corridor.  I'll be replying to the above post (#76) in one of those shortly.  S.P. (sparker)

yea i was trying to get the point about traffic in Austin and about the population but I-14 seems to be the focus

Bobby5280

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #79 on: April 23, 2020, 09:50:02 PM »

Quote from: bwana39
I also think it is naive to dismiss the powers of BRACC in getting the current section of I-14 built and numbered. While Ft Hood doesn't seem a likely target for BRACC, it is subject to missional realignment both positive and negative. When one base is closed or its mission reduced, that mission usually moves somewhere else. Part of the BRACC game is getting additional missions, not just staying open.  Texas CHOSE to spend the money to UPGRADE a relatively small stretch of  us 190 to interstate specs and to get it branded as Interstate. I am not of the opinion that extending it additionally as interstate is in the cards.

Base Realignment and Closure proceedings are not really an effective argument at getting something like I-14 built, especially when the efforts are likely going to come at the expense of other corridors in Texas in need of improvement and expansion, like TX-71 and US-290 in the Austin region as well as TX-6 within the Texas Triangle.

The leadership of the US Army and US military in general don't really give two farts about local economic development when those efforts try to conflict with military strategy and planning. Politicians are the ones who manage to maintain outdated programs or unneeded programs as a jobs thing. But the Generals get blamed for the pork anyway.

Sometimes even politicians can't save a military related jobs building effort. Here in the Lawton area almost 20 years ago United Defense had big plans to build a factory for a mobile artillery platform called the Crusader. A bunch of elected officials in Oklahoma were all on board with it. But deep down the Army really didn't want it. The system was too big, heavy and cumbersome and it designed with an outdated Cold War purpose in mind. Donald Rumsfeld ended up pulling the plug on Crusader. Since then BAE Systems has continued to improve the M109 platform. They build the latest versions at a new plant in Elgin, OK and test them nearby at Fort Sill.

Just like the oil industry doesn't move oil by highway, the military doesn't move a lot of its might by the highways either. Aircraft and railroads move a lot more gear. The I-14 concept would not help the Army at all strategically. If it was really important for military bases to be linked by freeways US-281 would already be an Interstate between Fort Sill and Fort Hood.

Fort Hood is one of the most important posts in the entire US Army. I-14 makes no difference in the future of that Army post. It would pretty much take dismantling much of the Army itself for Fort Hood to come under any threat of closure or serious mission reduction. Even if people in the US government or Texas state government wanted to shut down Fort Hood where would they relocate those missions without costing the Army (and taxpayers) a lot of money? The cost of living and cost of doing business in the Killeen area is relatively low compared to other more populated areas nearby. There are very few other temperate places around the nation that offer the same cost equations. A little over 10 years ago Fort Sill was under greater threat of getting its missions cut. But the BRAC proceedings determined Fort Sill was actually a great place to relocate missions from other posts due in part to the cost advantages in the Lawton area and local community support of the military. However Fort Sill is not big enough to replace the functions of Fort Hood. Most of Fort Sill's real estate is artillery ranges.

Quote from: bwana39
exas CHOSE to spend the money to UPGRADE a relatively small stretch of  us 190 to interstate specs and to get it branded as Interstate. I am not of the opinion that extending it additionally as interstate is in the cards.

US-190 in the Killeen-Copperas Cove area has been a freeway for many years. Aside from spot improvements to ramps and a couple of exits the freeway is not much different than it was 30 or more years ago. It's not like a whole bunch of work was done to get I-14 shields installed on that existing route.

A great deal of upgrade work is needed on other corridors in Texas, as I said before. I suppose one can make a case for building I-14 from Belton to College Station and Huntsville. I can make a better case of upgrading the Texas corridors I mentioned earlier, particularly the ones going through Austin.
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #80 on: April 24, 2020, 12:02:52 AM »

I suppose one can make a case for building I-14 from Belton to College Station and Huntsville. I can make a better case of upgrading the Texas corridors I mentioned earlier, particularly the ones going through Austin.
2 lane, zig-zag road through towns vs. 4-lane divided 75 mph highway with town bypasses.

How is the latter more important?

If the I-14 corridor was already served by a 4-lane divided highway, I could understand the rationale of a US-290 or SH-71 corridor having more importance, but it's not. I'd rather see a 2-lane route improved before an adequate 4-lane divided highway is fully upgraded.

If you've noticed, for the most part, the only segments of I-69 currently built are town bypasses. The upcoming long-distance upgrades of US-59, US-77, and US-281 are the first of those kind on the I-69 system. One major segment - Corpus Christi to Houston - will not be improved for decades to come, but it's already a 75 mph expressway with zero traffic signals between Refugio and Houston. The most I could see immediately needed are town bypasses of Refugio and Odem. Yes, I would like to see the entire thing completed one day, but they are much lower priorities than the town bypasses. The same principal I'd say for 2 lane routes, especially the largely unimproved one I-14 follows. I'd like to see an I-69 routing via US-59 and SH-44 constructed between Laredo and Corpus Christi before US-77 and US-59 is improved between Corpus Christi and Houston.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2020, 12:08:28 AM by sprjus4 »
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Bobby5280

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #81 on: April 24, 2020, 12:34:40 AM »

Quote from: sprjus4
If the I-14 corridor was already served by a 4-lane divided highway, I could understand the rationale of a US-290 or SH-71 corridor having more importance, but it's not. I'd rather see a 2-lane route improved before an adequate 4-lane divided highway is fully upgraded.

Adequate? You've gotta be kidding. Austin is literally the only large metro area in the United States with a MSA population of over 2 million people that is not served by both North-South and East-West super highway corridors. But you insist on diverting any East-West Interstate corridor development to an area with a comparatively TINY population. That's completely nuts.

If ordinary 4-lane divided non-freeway routes are good enough to serve East-West movements thru Austin we might as well down-grade I-10 thru San Antonio. The Austin metro is just as populous as the San Antonio metro and the city limits population of Austin is growing faster than San Antonio. If the current trend holds Austin will pass San Antonio in city limits population.

US-190 does have a crooked zig-zag route through the Texas Triangle. The US-290 and TX-71 corridors between Austin and Houston are far more direct than that even with the bypasses around towns. Some of those bypasses are already freeways. US-290 and TX-71 don't run on a "W" shape or saw-tooth shape like US-190. Both corridors would be relatively easy to upgrade. And both corridors are direct links between two metros that are in the top 10 of the nation's largest metros. I don't see how Killeen trumps that.

Quote from: sprjus4
If you've noticed, for the most part, the only segments of I-69 currently built are town bypasses.

And the only section of I-14 currently on the map is a merely re-signed section of a I-35 freeway stub that has already existed for many years.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2020, 05:17:03 PM by Bobby5280 »
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #82 on: April 24, 2020, 12:54:31 AM »

Adequate? You've gotta be kidding. Austin is literally the only large metro area in the United States with a MSA population of over 2 million people that is not served by both North-South and East-West super highway corridors. But you insist on diverting any East-West Interstate corridor development to an area with a comparatively TINY population. That's completely nuts.

If ordinary 4-lane divided non-freeway routes are good enough to serve East-West movements thru Austin we might as well down-grade I-10 thru San Antonio. The Austin metro is just as populous as the San Antonio metro and the city limits population of Austin is growing faster than San Antonio. If the current trend holds Austin will pass San Antonio in city limits population.
I-10 between San Antonio and Houston at its lowest point has 33,500 AADT, we can assume that's an average volume for metro to metro traffic.
SH-71 between Austin and I-10 at its lowest point has 11,900 AADT.
US-290 between Austin and Houston at its lowest point has 12,500 AADT.

Poor comparison between I-10 and SH-71 / US-290, significantly more traffic.

I'm not saying there should be no improvements to the two corridors. The freeways should continue to be extended east as the region grows outward, and the remaining towns on the corridors should be bypassed. Once a 65 - 75 mph divided highway with zero traffic signals is established, the corridor would be more than adequate. In the long term, a freeway would be ideal, but is not a necessity at this point.

If the two corridors were combined to one roadway, presumably they would carry around 24,000 AADT, and even then a 4 lane divided 65 - 75 mph expressway with zero traffic signals and town bypasses would be adequate with a freeway the long-term vision.

US-190 does have a crooked zig-zag route through the Texas Triangle. The US-290 and TX-71 corridors between Austin and Houston are far more direct than that even with the bypasses around towns[/b]. Some of those bypasses are already freeways. US-290 and TX-71 don't run on a "W" shape or saw-tooth shape like US-190. Both corridors would be relatively easy to upgrade. And both corridors are direct links between two metros that are in the top 10 of the nation's largest metros. I don't see how Killeen trumps that.
First off, the current US-190 corridor is a zig-zag. The proposal for I-14 would generally follow this, but in an alignment that is significantly straighter.

US-190 between Temple and College Station at its lowest point has 7,800 AADT, not much less than the Austin - Houston corridors. The College Station / Bryan metro of 270,000 population has 4 lane divided highways going to Austin, Houston, and Waco. They lack 4 lane access to the Killeen / Temple / Fort Hood metro of 460,000 along with to Huntsville of 40,000. Because of its crooked alignment, a 4 lane divided highway would likely be built on new location on a straight alignment, avoiding the towns in the process, and you have I-14.

The US-190 / Future I-14 corridor is more inadequate than US-290 or SH-71 are, and rightfully is a higher priority.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2020, 12:56:55 AM by sprjus4 »
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ethanhopkin14

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #83 on: June 03, 2020, 02:17:50 PM »

The lack of Houston-Austin direct interstate connection is embarrassing at least.  It's a short 163 mile corridor that, if you use the SH-71 alignment would be even shorter via Interstate 10.  Something has to be done!
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sparker

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #84 on: June 03, 2020, 04:01:53 PM »

The lack of Houston-Austin direct interstate connection is embarrassing at least.  It's a short 163 mile corridor that, if you use the SH-71 alignment would be even shorter via Interstate 10.  Something has to be done!

Step 1:  Get a shitload of Austin/Round Rock/etc. folks together and make your case to your local congressman for a high-priority corridor connecting the two cities.  Do your homework re AADT's on both US 290 and TX 71, and present a rational proposal.  If you congressman's IQ is at least in triple digits, he/she should know how to both formulate the language for such a proposal and how to get it inserted into the next year's USDOT funding bill.  The best bet for a corridor description would be a specification of end points (Austin, Houston), so future funding references could be utilized for either corridor, including -- if a TX 71 alignment is selected -- upgrades of I-10 east of Columbus.  Also make sure an Interstate designation (likely a 2nd I-12) is attached to the legislation. 
Step 2:  Keep the pressure up.  Contact the local towns along the potential route(s) (i.e. Bastrop, Brenham, etc.) to join in the effort; remind them that it's in their best interest to do so.  And don't be afraid to pit one route option against another; if it hits the press, that'll bolster the chances that the effort will be seen as legitimate rather than just another slice of pork.  Let the 290 folks and the 71 folks duke it out over which route makes more sense.  Chances are, there will be a study (likely about 3-4 years worth of data collection and compilation) to determine just that.  Eventually a route will be selected within the corridor parameters of the legislation (my guess knowing TX proclivities -- it'll head east from Austin on 71, cut up to 290 east of Bastrop, and follow 290 the rest of the way into Houston).
Step 3:  This is vital -- make sure your local state legislators from the affected areas are on board; they'll need to shepherd approval of the state's share of funding for the project once actual development occurs -- and this will be a "rinse and repeat" process until the last project is let. 

This is how successful corridor concepts have progressed in the last couple of decades:  I-22 and the completed/in process sections of I-49 in AR and MO were done this way; even the I-14 corridor is employing this method, although, of course, in the very early stages.  It takes work -- and not letting up despite the invariable setbacks that'll be encountered.  If some party can get enough Austin-area folks involved and active in the process, there would be a decent chance that an actual working corridor concept could be established.  Bottom line -- you never know until you try!     
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #85 on: June 03, 2020, 05:14:23 PM »

From what I've seen, US-290 may well be the best corridor for an Austin - Houston interstate.

Pros -
- Divert traffic off the SH-71 / I-10 routing which could ease some pressure on I-10 which is seeing ever increasing traffic between Columbus and Houston. The 6 lane widening will help but consider 20 years from now. Might reduce the need for 8 lane widening, and even larger scale widening east of Katy.
- US-290 is better built out leaving the Austin area than SH-71 is. 6 lane freeway out to SH-130.
- US-290 is already built out to freeway standards approximately 60 miles out of Downtown Houston.
- Allows through traffic from Austin to the east to have easier access to the future northern Loop 99 to bypass Houston.
- US-290 has better connections to central and northern Austin.

Cons -
- Additional 15 miles of upgrade needed (80 miles on SH-71 vs. 95 miles of US-290). This is offset though by having less upgrade work needed on I-10 between Columbus and Houston to handle diverted traffic from US-290.
- Tolls on US-290 Manor Expwy leaving the Austin area. Could either incorporate the existing toll road into the interstate system or buy out & remove the tolls.

Anything else I might be missing?

Ultimately, I could see US-290 being upgraded to interstate standards between Houston and Austin, SH-71 upgraded to interstate standards out to Bastrop, and SH-21 upgraded to interstate standards between Bastrop to US-290.
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ethanhopkin14

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #86 on: June 03, 2020, 05:29:53 PM »

From what I've seen, US-290 may well be the best corridor for an Austin - Houston interstate.

Pros -
- Divert traffic off the SH-71 / I-10 routing which could ease some pressure on I-10 which is seeing ever increasing traffic between Columbus and Houston. The 6 lane widening will help but consider 20 years from now. Might reduce the need for 8 lane widening, and even larger scale widening east of Katy.
- US-290 is better built out leaving the Austin area than SH-71 is. 6 lane freeway out to SH-130.
- US-290 is already built out to freeway standards approximately 60 miles out of Downtown Houston.
- Allows through traffic from Austin to the east to have easier access to the future northern Loop 99 to bypass Houston.
- US-290 has better connections to central and northern Austin.

Cons -
- Additional 15 miles of upgrade needed (80 miles on SH-71 vs. 95 miles of US-290). This is offset though by having less upgrade work needed on I-10 between Columbus and Houston to handle diverted traffic from US-290.
- Tolls on US-290 Manor Expwy leaving the Austin area. Could either incorporate the existing toll road into the interstate system or buy out & remove the tolls.

Anything else I might be missing?

Ultimately, I could see US-290 being upgraded to interstate standards between Houston and Austin, SH-71 upgraded to interstate standards out to Bastrop, and SH-21 upgraded to interstate standards between Bastrop to US-290.

Here are the cons to US-290 and in favor of SH71:

1) US-290, although having substantial freeway sections leaving both Houston and Austin, it serves as "Main Street USA" for Elgin, Giddings and has a piece of crap bypass for Brenham.  it would require extensive upgrading through most of it's routing to make it an interstate.  SH-71 on the other hand, is a divided highway for its entire length and has freeway bypasses of Bastrop, Smithville and La Grange already, so just the rural stretches on an already wide right-of-way would need upgrading, with the one holdout being Ellinger (but that would require bypassing 2 gas stations, not a whole downtown).

2) US-290 would serve as a Houston-Austin interstate connection, but that would be it.  It would stop right there.  SH-71 will tap into I-10 in Columbus, and, utilizing the US-290 corridor west of Austin would connect back with I-10 southeast of Junction to connect Austin with a larger, transcontinental route in the system, not just a spur route like 290 would be.

3) Every Austinite agrees when going to Houston, US-290 is the crappier way.  Mabey that would change if it was interstate grade the whole way, but it just is the longer, more out of the way, way to go over the more direct SH-71/I-10 way.

I have tried most of the above mentioned tactics.  I have written to may Congressmen and Senators in both the US and state senates along the corridor about this.  My problem is I don't know many people, and the few friends I have don't care about roads.  If I said Austin needs another interstate to them, they hear "let's build an oil refinery in your back yard."
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Bobby5280

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #87 on: June 03, 2020, 05:41:50 PM »

In any "red state" it's tough to make any headway at all with local and regional representatives who only think of spending in terms of spending cuts and tax cuts. It's difficult to get them excited about any kind of highway idea. The big problem is it's all seen from the optics of local perspective rather than larger, big picture, national terms. The original Interstate system was a federal-driven project national in scale. In the last couple decades the federal government has abdicated its role in road building more and more to the states. That makes it very difficult to build properly functional new long distance highway corridors crossing multiple state borders.

Quote from: sparker
This is how successful corridor concepts have progressed in the last couple of decades

Highway corridor development in the last couple of decades has been a joke -especially in the follow-thru part of it. Budgets busted with cost overruns, deadlines missed and end results often being a WTF crooked as hell path. The current model of getting roads built SUCKS.

If roads could only be built through political whoring and favoritism the United States wouldn't even have a functional national road network in the first place. There is zero such thing as big picture, system-wide function with any kind of setup built on who does the most networking.

But we've been through this same discussion many times previously.

Quote from: sprjus4
From what I've seen, US-290 may well be the best corridor for an Austin - Houston interstate.

I prefer the US-290 route linking Austin and Houston for numerous reasons. It serves a larger population than the TX-71 route. Most of the growth happening in both the Houston and Austin metros is taking place on the North sides of both metros. Most of the affluent growth is happening on the North sides of both metros. So if one route had to be prioritized I'd take US-290 over TX-71.

Nevertheless, the TX-71 route between Austin and Columbus (I-10) is still worthy of upgrading as well. Millions of people living South of I-10 in the Houston metro going to/from Austin would take TX-71.

With Houston still growing and the area between Austin and San Antonio growing rapidly it creates the situation over the long term of additional Interstate quality spokes being needed between I-10 and I-35 South of Austin. San Marcos to Luling is one. New Braunfels to Seguin is another obvious one. Loop 1604 on the NE side of San Antonio has to be upgraded.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 04:52:52 PM by Bobby5280 »
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #88 on: June 03, 2020, 05:48:53 PM »

Here are the cons to US-290 and in favor of SH71:

1) US-290, although having substantial freeway sections leaving both Houston and Austin, it serves as "Main Street USA" for Elgin, Giddings and has a piece of crap bypass for Brenham.  it would require extensive upgrading through most of it's routing to make it an interstate.  SH-71 on the other hand, is a divided highway for its entire length and has freeway bypasses of Bastrop, Smithville and La Grange already, so just the rural stretches on an already wide right-of-way would need upgrading, with the one holdout being Ellinger (but that would require bypassing 2 gas stations, not a whole downtown).
New terrain construction near Elgin and Giddings would be needed, a bypass extension could be constructed near Brenham to allow it to seamless tie into western US-290, similar to what's happening on I-69 near Nacogdoches.

IIRC, the rural segments that were still undivided 4 lane have been or are planned to be widened to have a wide median. The rural segments are adequate on US-290 after these upgrades are complete.

2) US-290 would serve as a Houston-Austin interstate connection, but that would be it.  It would stop right there.  SH-71 will tap into I-10 in Columbus, and, utilizing the US-290 corridor west of Austin would connect back with I-10 southeast of Junction to connect Austin with a larger, transcontinental route in the system, not just a spur route like 290 would be.
A US-290 interstate between Houston and Austin would then tie into US-290 West in Austin and I-10 East in Houston. It's the same thing once at the endpoints. I'm missing your point here.

Either way, anything west of Austin is more in the fictional territory vs. a realistic US-290 or SH-71 eastern connection.

3) Every Austinite agrees when going to Houston, US-290 is the crappier way.  Mabey that would change if it was interstate grade the whole way, but it just is the longer, more out of the way, way to go over the more direct SH-71/I-10 way.
Downtown Austin to Downtown Houston -
US-290 - 2 hours 35 minutes, 162 miles
SH-71 / I-10 - 2 hours 29 minutes, 165 miles

Assuming a 75 mph speed limit along US-290 between SH-130 and the Brazos River, that would cut approximately 14 minutes of travel time off the current travel time, reducing 2 hours 35 minutes to 2 hours 21 minutes, approximately 8 minutes faster and still 3 miles shorter than SH-71.

Ultimately, I think both routes should be studied in detail to determine the best one for an interstate highway upgrade. If one corridor is ever upgraded, the current 50-50 split between both the routes will likely shift with most traffic favoring the interstate and less traffic on the bypassed route. Right now, both corridors carry about 10,000 - 15,000 AADT each. Whatever becomes an interstate, the numbers would probably be 20,000 - 25,000 AADT, and 5,000 - 8,000 AADT on the bypassed route.
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #89 on: June 03, 2020, 05:50:04 PM »

Neverthless, the TX-71 route between Austin and Columbus (I-10) is still worthy of upgrading as well. Millions of people living South of I-10 in the Houston metro going to/from Austin would take TX-71.
Perhaps an expressway quality road - eliminate all the signals, bypasses of every town, consistent 65 - 75 mph speed limit throughout, etc.

Freeway / interstate connection along US-290.
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ethanhopkin14

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #90 on: June 03, 2020, 06:04:27 PM »

Here are the cons to US-290 and in favor of SH71:

1) US-290, although having substantial freeway sections leaving both Houston and Austin, it serves as "Main Street USA" for Elgin, Giddings and has a piece of crap bypass for Brenham.  it would require extensive upgrading through most of it's routing to make it an interstate.  SH-71 on the other hand, is a divided highway for its entire length and has freeway bypasses of Bastrop, Smithville and La Grange already, so just the rural stretches on an already wide right-of-way would need upgrading, with the one holdout being Ellinger (but that would require bypassing 2 gas stations, not a whole downtown).
New terrain construction near Elgin and Giddings would be needed, a bypass extension could be constructed near Brenham to allow it to seamless tie into western US-290, similar to what's happening on I-69 near Nacogdoches.

IIRC, the rural segments that were still undivided 4 lane have been or are planned to be widened to have a wide median. The rural segments are adequate on US-290 after these upgrades are complete.

2) US-290 would serve as a Houston-Austin interstate connection, but that would be it.  It would stop right there.  SH-71 will tap into I-10 in Columbus, and, utilizing the US-290 corridor west of Austin would connect back with I-10 southeast of Junction to connect Austin with a larger, transcontinental route in the system, not just a spur route like 290 would be.
A US-290 interstate between Houston and Austin would then tie into US-290 West in Austin and I-10 East in Houston. It's the same thing once at the endpoints. I'm missing your point here.

Either way, anything west of Austin is more in the fictional territory vs. a realistic US-290 or SH-71 eastern connection.

3) Every Austinite agrees when going to Houston, US-290 is the crappier way.  Mabey that would change if it was interstate grade the whole way, but it just is the longer, more out of the way, way to go over the more direct SH-71/I-10 way.
Downtown Austin to Downtown Houston -
US-290 - 2 hours 35 minutes, 162 miles
SH-71 / I-10 - 2 hours 29 minutes, 165 miles

Assuming a 75 mph speed limit along US-290 between SH-130 and the Brazos River, that would cut approximately 14 minutes of travel time off the current travel time, reducing 2 hours 35 minutes to 2 hours 21 minutes, approximately 8 minutes faster and still 3 miles shorter than SH-71.

Ultimately, I think both routes should be studied in detail to determine the best one for an interstate highway upgrade. If one corridor is ever upgraded, the current 50-50 split between both the routes will likely shift with most traffic favoring the interstate and less traffic on the bypassed route. Right now, both corridors carry about 10,000 - 15,000 AADT each. Whatever becomes an interstate, the numbers would probably be 20,000 - 25,000 AADT, and 5,000 - 8,000 AADT on the bypassed route.

I do have a bias living in south Austin and southwest of Austin my whole life.  There are a lot of people living south of the river that will not drive through I-35 downtown to get to the new interstate that usurps US 290.  It makes no sense.  I also see how the reverse would make no sense, but I do believe it is the smarter choice to SH-71 so that it can, eventually be part of the interstate that branches off I-10, then back a la I-35E and I-35W, so that long-haul traffic can choose to go to San Antonio or Austin, which ever the driver sees fit.   It also helps that the route through Austin as a freeway is almost complete albeit the Oak Hill section that is 40 years too late. 

I am more for the system viability to the connector rather than the link from Houston to Austin.  Putting Austin on the long-haul grid is very important.  Its a big city and the capital of the 2nd most populous state.  If you only upgrade US-290, then the long-haul traffic gets diverted onto I-35 downtown.  We all know how lovely that is.  There are entire forums devoted to how horrible the traffic issue is there.

Hell, upgrade them both, but SH-71 should be the priority.  Doing US 290 first feels more like a band aid (here we gave you your interstate, shut up) than it does a long term solution. 

Lastly, I have never come close to making the drive on 290 in 2 and a half hours, not at night nor in the wee hours of the morning.  I commuted from Austin to Houston for years for work.  It never happened once, not close.  More like 3:15, and that's when my office was at Loop 360 and FM 2222 and jumping on US 290 was very quick and without driving I-35 downtown.  SH 71, even with a drive south on Loop 360 to get to 71, I did it once in 2:15, and I don't speed.  Its just a better road/route.  There have been many debates from other people I knew, completely unprompted that said exactly "They say 290 is quicker to get to Houston, but  I have never made it quicker once."
« Last Edit: June 03, 2020, 06:11:20 PM by ethanhopkin14 »
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #91 on: June 03, 2020, 06:12:08 PM »

I do have a bias living in south Austin and southwest of Austin my whole life.  There are a lot of people living south of the river that will not drive through I-35 downtown to get to the new interstate that usurps US 290.

If you only upgrade US-290, then the long-haul traffic gets diverted onto I-35 downtown.  We all know how lovely that is.  There are entire forums devoted to how horrible the traffic issue is there.
This is why, in addition to US-290 into Austin, I suggested upgrading SH-71 out to Bastrop, then SH-21 up to US-290.

Provides two egress routes out of Austin (SH-71 and US-290), then tie back near Paige to follow US-290 all the way to Houston.

In regards to your comment about thru traffic, one could argue using US-290 allows thru traffic to bypass Houston via the SH-99 northern loop. Using a SH-71 route that departs Houston via I-10 West doesn't allow traffic to use SH-99 to bypass, or at least not directly (way north, then way back south).

Perhaps a split route going into Austin, and US-290 east of there would be the best, a thru traveler could use SH-99, US-290, connect to SH-71 via Bastrop, and avoid Houston and central Austin. In addition, if SH-45 is ever completed around to Oak Hill, that would bypass the entire area.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2020, 06:14:33 PM by sprjus4 »
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #92 on: June 03, 2020, 06:15:59 PM »

Lastly, I have never come close to making the drive on 290 in 2 and a half hours, not at night nor in the wee hours of the morning.  I commuted from Austin to Houston for years for work.  It never happened once, not close.  More like 3:15, and that's when my office was at Loop 360 and FM 2222 and jumping on US 290 was very quick and without driving I-35 downtown.  SH 71, even with a drive south on Loop 360 to get to 71, I did it once in 2:15, and I don't speed.  Its just a better road/route.  There have been many debates from other people I knew, completely unprompted that said exactly "They say 290 is quicker to get to Houston, but  I have never made it quicker once."
Moot point comparing today's conditions vs. a future upgrade. The mileage won't change. A 75 mph speed limit throughout, no signals, interchanges, town bypasses, and rural freeway would significantly improve conditions and make it a preferred connection.
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ethanhopkin14

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #93 on: June 03, 2020, 06:21:01 PM »

Lastly, I have never come close to making the drive on 290 in 2 and a half hours, not at night nor in the wee hours of the morning.  I commuted from Austin to Houston for years for work.  It never happened once, not close.  More like 3:15, and that's when my office was at Loop 360 and FM 2222 and jumping on US 290 was very quick and without driving I-35 downtown.  SH 71, even with a drive south on Loop 360 to get to 71, I did it once in 2:15, and I don't speed.  Its just a better road/route.  There have been many debates from other people I knew, completely unprompted that said exactly "They say 290 is quicker to get to Houston, but  I have never made it quicker once."
Moot point comparing today's conditions vs. a future upgrade. The mileage won't change. A 75 mph speed limit throughout, no signals, interchanges, town bypasses, and rural freeway would significantly improve conditions and make it a preferred connection.

I swear I mentioned I drove 290 late at night and in the very wee hours of the morning, i.e. nobody on the road and still was an hour slower than 71 during a week day.  That part isn't moot.  Trust me, it's more out of the way.  It just is. 
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #94 on: June 03, 2020, 06:22:30 PM »

I swear I mentioned I drove 290 late at night and in the very wee hours of the morning, i.e. nobody on the road and still was an hour slower than 71 during a week day.  That part isn't moot.  Trust me, it's more out of the way.  It just is.
Towns, traffic signals, slower speed limits, etc.

Did you drive said route after the Manor Expwy, and US-290 freeway upgrade to SH-6 were complete?

Google says otherwise as far as "out of the way". It says 162 miles for US-290, and 165 miles for SH-71 / I-10. Routed from Downtown Houston to Downtown Austin.
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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #95 on: June 03, 2020, 06:25:19 PM »

I swear I mentioned I drove 290 late at night and in the very wee hours of the morning, i.e. nobody on the road and still was an hour slower than 71 during a week day.  That part isn't moot.  Trust me, it's more out of the way.  It just is.
Towns, traffic signals, slower speed limits, etc.

Did you drive said route after the Manor Expwy, and US-290 freeway upgrade to SH-6 were complete?

Google says otherwise as far as "out of the way". It says 162 miles for US-290, and 165 miles for SH-71 / I-10. Routed from Downtown Houston to Downtown Austin.

Okay, then I guess I don't know what I'm talking about.

I was also referencing 15-20 years ago when there was no freeway bypass in Bastrop and less freeway in Austin to deal with and it was still faster.
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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #96 on: June 03, 2020, 08:11:58 PM »

The lack of Houston-Austin direct interstate connection is embarrassing at least.  It's a short 163 mile corridor that, if you use the SH-71 alignment would be even shorter via Interstate 10.  Something has to be done!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only place I've ever heard the idea of an interstate between Austin and Houston being promoted is on this forum.

Over the last 30+ years, I've never heard or seen (in the press) the idea promoted by an elected official, government entity, business organization, TxDOT, transportation council (i.e. HGAC or CAMPO), transportation advocacy group. or small city between Houston and Austin.

Keep in mind that Austin and Houston don't feel any kinship. Austin sees Houston as a huge toxic waste pit, and Houston sees Austin as an overrated place populated by a bunch of freaks and weirdos.

As Sparker has pointed out (multiple times), it takes strong political advocacy from influential entities (i.e. elected officials, business groups) to get major upgrades, and there is a total lack of advocacy. Other corridors, like IH 69, IH 22 and port-to-plains have very strong advocacy. And TxDOT has a high priority on corridors including IH 45 (Houston-Dallas) and IH 10 (Houston-San Antonio).

On the plus side, there is an ongoing program of upgrades. This week bids are being received for $47 million in work to eliminate two intersections on SH 71 east of Austin.
https://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/cmd/cserve/let/2020/travis.htm#026502036

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #97 on: June 03, 2020, 11:07:53 PM »

Wear: Work underway to speed up the sometimes slow road to Houston

Quote
The nagging question always pops up for anyone who sets out for Houston on Texas 71 or U.S. 290 and, not far down the road, runs into a red light: Why in the world is there not an interstate highway between the state capital and Texas’ largest metro area?

Why did highway builders choose to route Interstate 10 not through Austin but instead to San Antonio? Looking at the map, I-10 dips south out of the way and adds at least a few miles to the trip westward to El Paso and California beyond.

The answer, which I’ll get into in a second, is embedded in history and population. But it’s worth knowing that the Texas Department of Transportation is in the final stages of a decadeslong effort to at least make that 170-mile trip from Austin to Houston free of traffic lights.

Right now, there are just five traffic signals left on Texas 71 between Interstate 35 in South Austin and I-10 in Columbus, all of them between Austin and Bastrop. And TxDOT has engineering plans and money set aside to eliminate four of those lights by adding overpasses over the next four years. The fifth one — at FM 1209 just west of Bastrop — is in the cross hairs as well, but the timing of its removal is less certain, TxDOT Austin district engineer Terry McCoy told me.

Now back to why there’s no interstate heading southeast to Houston from here.

Plans for a national grid of superhighways had been kicking around for at least 20 years before Congress in 1956 managed to pass a landmark bill, signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, that funded the final engineering and construction of such a system. President Franklin Roosevelt, according to “The Big Roads,” a history of the interstate system published a few years ago, in the late 1930s sketched out his version of an interstate system from his Oval Office desk.

And the plain fact is that when this routing work was going on, Austin didn’t have the people or the prominence it does now. San Antonio in 1955 had almost 500,000 people, while Austin had 160,000 and virtually no industry to produce the sort of truck traffic that was to be a major user of this cross-country highway system.

San Antonio did.

“That’s where the traffic wanted to go,” said Richard Ridings, a senior vice president with the venerable engineering firm HNTB Corp. The company was deeply involved in the original design of the interstates, said Ridings, who has been working in civil engineering for 55 years. And anyone looking at the big picture back then would have started with the port of Houston and its cargo headed inland.

“They wanted to get that stuff north, and they wanted to get it west and east,” Ridings said. “At the time, Austin was almost an afterthought.”

Since then, of course, the population and commerce disparities between Austin and San Antonio have narrowed. The greater San Antonio area now has about 2.5 million people, Austin about 2.1 million. So San Antonio has gone from three times the size of Austin to being about 20 percent larger.

The U.S. interstate system was essentially built out by 1990, although there have been some additions in the years sincel. But turning Texas 71 into an interstate between Austin and Columbus, a distance of about 90 miles, would be tremendously expensive and disruptive.

Interstates have certain standards of curvature and slope that could require some rerouting, but, most of all, interstates are what is known as controlled-access highways. Meaning, no driveways. If you want to get on or off an interstate, you have to take a ramp.

That means that either no businesses, homes, farms or ranches can connect directly to the highway for miles at a time or, as is the case on Interstate 35 through the heart of the state, there are frontage roads.

Texas 71, other than in Austin and through Bastrop’s commercial district, has no frontage roads. And it has scads of roads and private drives entering it throughout the other, more rural sections. So to turn it into interstate now would require TxDOT not only to acquire a lot of right of way for what would be a wider highway in many places, but also to pay some property owners for lost access to the road.

Or, more likely, to build many, many miles of frontage roads. Either way, the cost would be enormous. This isn’t a project that’s going to happen in the foreseeable future.

What TxDOT is doing instead — trying to eliminate traffic lights little by little — is the next best thing.

During my youth in Austin, through the mid-1970s, a trip to Houston included going through Bastrop, Smithville, La Grange and Columbus, including a few lights in each town and the odd right or left turn. The towns broke up the trip and were interesting to look at out the window, but going through them added a lot of time to the trip. By the early 1990s, TxDOT had completed loops around all those towns and few traffic lights remained east of FM 973 in Del Valle.

But little by little, as development stretched southeast of Austin, traffic lights were added first to that Bastrop bypass and then to several other spots along the way. About 15 years ago, TxDOT began to take those on, building overpasses and associated frontage lanes at several spots in Bastrop and major roads along the way like Texas 21. More recently, TxDOT installed a deep underpass on Texas 71 at Riverside Drive and a short tollway to bypass traffic signals at Texas 130′s frontage roads.

But lights remain at Ross Road and Kellam Road in Del Valle, at Tucker Hill Lane and Pope Bend Road about halfway to Bastrop, and at FM 1209.

TxDOT has set aside $48 million to build overpasses at Ross and Kellam — work set to begin as soon as fall 2019 and be done by summer 2021 — and $52.6 million for overpasses at Tucker Hill and Pope Bend. That second set of projects, TxDOT hopes, will start in fall 2020 and be done by summer 2022. All of this, TxDOT officials caution, could be delayed somewhat by environmental clearance work and acquisition of right of way.

The FM 1209 overpass, TxDOT estimates, would cost an additional $35 million. That money has not been nailed down.

McCoy, by the way, said he would like to make similar progress on U.S. 290, the northern route to Houston, but it has far more traffic signals standing in the way.

So, something like five years from now, a driver might be able to get to and from Houston on Texas 71 without hitting a red light.

That’s assuming, of course, that yet another traffic signal or three aren’t added in the meantime.
Arguments about high cost and having to build frontage roads that are preventing such a project don't seem to stop planning efforts along I-14 and I-69.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 12:01:08 AM by sprjus4 »
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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #98 on: June 03, 2020, 11:08:26 PM »

The lack of Houston-Austin direct interstate connection is embarrassing at least.  It's a short 163 mile corridor that, if you use the SH-71 alignment would be even shorter via Interstate 10.  Something has to be done!

Step 1:  Get a shitload of Austin/Round Rock/etc. folks together and make your case to your local congressman for a high-priority corridor connecting the two cities.

Yeah, about that:
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sprjus4

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Re: Austin, TX
« Reply #99 on: June 04, 2020, 12:10:09 AM »

The lack of Houston-Austin direct interstate connection is embarrassing at least.  It's a short 163 mile corridor that, if you use the SH-71 alignment would be even shorter via Interstate 10.  Something has to be done!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only place I've ever heard the idea of an interstate between Austin and Houston being promoted is on this forum.

Over the last 30+ years, I've never heard or seen (in the press) the idea promoted by an elected official, government entity, business organization, TxDOT, transportation council (i.e. HGAC or CAMPO), transportation advocacy group. or small city between Houston and Austin.

Keep in mind that Austin and Houston don't feel any kinship. Austin sees Houston as a huge toxic waste pit, and Houston sees Austin as an overrated place populated by a bunch of freaks and weirdos.

As Sparker has pointed out (multiple times), it takes strong political advocacy from influential entities (i.e. elected officials, business groups) to get major upgrades, and there is a total lack of advocacy. Other corridors, like IH 69, IH 22 and port-to-plains have very strong advocacy. And TxDOT has a high priority on corridors including IH 45 (Houston-Dallas) and IH 10 (Houston-San Antonio).

On the plus side, there is an ongoing program of upgrades. This week bids are being received for $47 million in work to eliminate two intersections on SH 71 east of Austin.
https://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/cmd/cserve/let/2020/travis.htm#026502036
It seems once the remaining few lights west of Bastrop are eliminated, there will be a traffic signal free route from Houston to Austin in place, effectively a free-flowing expressway.

They need to at minimum widen that "toll bypass" near SH-130 to four lanes. The existing two-lane setup doesn't have the ability to handle high traffic volumes.
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