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Rearranging the traffic

Not sure how much of an effect this will have.

Among the 200,000 motorists who traverse Interstate 45 just south of downtown every day, a fair number find themselves weaving frantically from lane to lane as they approach the connection with U.S. 59.

State transportation officials hope to reduce the stress felt by these drivers, and to unclog a notorious bottleneck, by changing the design of the spot where two of Houston’s most heavily traveled freeways meet.

An upcoming project will move access to U.S. 59 to the parallel elevated lanes that now connect drivers to downtown. The change will require drivers to head to U.S. 59 about a mile farther south, but officials believe the transitions will be smoother.

“The big thing is to prevent the weaving,” Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Danny Perez said. “Traffic tends to bottleneck there.”

When the U.S. 59 connections move to the existing downtown access ramp, traffic bound for the central business district will shift to a new exit ramp with access to St. Joseph and Pease.

The change also will make it impossible for drivers to enter northbound I-45 from Scott and race across several lanes to access U.S. 59 south.

Officials say the new design will keep traffic moving by eliminating the weaving toward ramps that feed left and right from northbound I-45 – leaving drivers who want to continue north on the freeway in the middle.

This is a good idea, and I do think it will help. It will also be nice to have some new ways to enter and exit the freeway from south of downtown. But let’s maintain some perspective here. Eliminating the weaving and all that is nice, but I-45 will still narrow down to two lanes as it enters the Pierce Elevated, and that will create a bottleneck no matter what they do with the US59 part of it. I’m more than a little curious to know what will become of those two left lanes if they’re not an offramp to 59 and 288. The story doesn’t address either of these points, and I’m left wondering if this is all part of the downtown roundabout plan. Construction may start as soon as December, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

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