March 29, 2006
The slow spur

As I read about the snarled traffic on US59 approaching the newly-reopened Spur 527, I have to ask: Am I the only one who remembers what this stretch of road was like before the construction?

Some drivers said they saw little improvement in the traffic situation. Persistent rain Tuesday didn't help.

Several trips through the trouble spot showed that the two left lanes consistently made the best time, which may explain part of the problem.

Speeds there seldom dipped below 20 mph while traffic in the two right lanes was stop-and-go.

That raises a suspicion that some drivers in the right lanes are merging to the left to make better time, then merging back to the right to avoid having to exit onto the spur.

A suspicion? Dude, that's exactly what people did in the old days, and for exactly the same reason: there were far fewer cars that actually took the spur than there were cars continuing north on 59, so people got in the left lanes and stayed for as long as they could before squeezing/forcing their way over. The only difference that I can see now is that there are fewer lanes overall right now - one left lane has been lost to the not-yet-opened HOV, and one right lane is still closed due to unfinished work on the Main Street exit.

And as Christof points out in the link above, even if the Shepherd-to-spur section had been widened, you'd still run into a bottleneck just past it where the exits to 288 and I-45 are. Both of those ramps can and do back up onto 59, which is obviously a problem, and speaking as someone who takes 288 north to the Pierce Elevated most days from work, 59 is still plenty crowded once you get past those exits, too.

Now if there's a significant number of people who are coming this way to get to I-45, and if a lot of them figure out that they can get there via the spur (and avoid that nasty bottleneck-by-design Pierce Elevated onramp), then maybe the load at this juncture will lessen a bit. Certainly getting the HOV in play, and reclaiming the lane lost to the Main Street exit work will go a long way, too. But for now, all I can say is: Honestly, what did you expect?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 29, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

My take is that this 59/Spur re-vamping is primarily aesthetic. So why expect actual improvement? This is in contrast to the 59/West Loop/I-10 re-vamping, which really looks to be designed to improve logistics (and hopefully will).

Posted by: Big House on March 29, 2006 2:33 PM