Are you ready for some I-10 construction?

Well, ready or not

State highways officials set out in 2004 to develop a plan to remake Interstate 45 and add managed lanes, only to face increasingly stiff opposition in the past three years from elected officials and community activists that its plan was out of step with future travel needs.

New plans to add managed lanes along Interstate 10 along a corridor inside Loop 610 took only days to get that same response.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transit Authority are jointly presenting plans for a so-called Inner Katy Corridor, a project to remake the 10-lane freeway — five lanes in each direction supported by frontage roads and entrance and exit ramps — by building dedicated bus lanes, adding two managed lanes in each direction and upgrading drainage along depressed portions of the freeway.

“The commitment remains to moving the same number of single-occupant vehicles at high speed,” said Neal Ehardt, a freeway critic who advocates a more urban-focused approach that includes downsizing major highways. “We are keeping the same number of single-occupant car lanes and we are adding managed lanes. This is not the mode transition we want. It is more like mode bloat.”

Officials counter that it is a necessary step — and an unconventional one for TxDOT — to stay within the existing freeway footprint as much as possible but meet demand. They understand there are some that believe no additional lanes are needed, said James Koch, director of transportation planning and development for TxDOT’s Houston office.

“That is a nice goal to have, but where we are today, we are not there,” Koch said. “We still have traffic and congestion today and we are dealing with those things. I understand the passion those folks have, but not everybody wants to get on the bus.”

Comments for this phase can be submitted to TxDOT or Metro until March 31. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials created a virtual meeting room, also available until March 31.

Planners have three objectives for the eventual project along the I-10 corridor:

  • Building dedicated bus lanes along the freeway to extend Metro’s bus rapid transit from the Northwest Transit Center near Loop 610 to downtown Houston.
  • Improving drainage along the segment where I-10 is below local streets, from Patterson to Loop 610.
  • Adding two managed lanes in each direction and improving carpool access by eliminating any gaps where HOV drivers mingle with general traffic.

Those objectives would be broken up into multiple projects, likely with different timelines.

Metro’s bus lanes, for example, already are funded via the transit agency’s capital budget and money controlled by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, which distributes some federal highway funding. Provided Metro is ready to proceed, construction of the $227.5 million bus lane project is set to begin in 2023 and open in 2025, according to H-GAC’s five-year plan.

TxDOT’s managed lanes are not included in upcoming spending plans, with officials saying the current timeline would be to start construction in 2027. The goal, Koch said, is for TxDOT to have some idea of what people prefer so the Metro bus lanes can be built without interfering with what the state constructs in the future.


The transit lanes have a chance to radically improve the quality of bus rides in the corridor and the region, said Christof Spieler, an urban planner and former Metro board member.

Relative to past freeway discussions, he said, TxDOT is part of a larger conversation about how various projects are coming together, ultimately to determine how Houston grows.

“There are signs in there of TxDOT being more creative than in the past,” Spieler said.

I’m going to wait and see on this one, based on Spieler’s comments. The Metro bus lanes, which were part of the 2019 Metro referendum, are a must-have. I think everyone would like to see drainage improved for this stretch of highway. It’s adding the managed lanes that are going to cause the heartburn, since that either means widening I-10 (which would take up to 115 more feet of right-of-way, according to the story), or adding elevated lanes (which would still need 45 feet) and adding concerns about noise and visual blight. My advice is to attend any public meetings and give your input while you can, because it’s going to be time to start building before you know it.

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7 Responses to Are you ready for some I-10 construction?

  1. voter_worker says:

    It’s clear this proposal will wipe out all or most of the existing tree plantings , thus elevating the road many notches higher on the eyesore scale. “How ugly are we going to make it?” seems to be the choice facing interested parties. Is this going to encroach on Memorial Park?

  2. Bill Daniels says:


    Tree plantings by the side of the roads are counterproductive. First, as you have discerned, when the road is widened, you just increased the cost of widening the road, since all the trees you spent money on have to be cleared out. Second, no one apparently thinks about what happens when those trees grow. They have to be trimmed, costing taxpayers money. After weather events, those that go down and impede the roadway have to be removed ASAP, so high costs are involved, plus the problem of blocking the roads when emergency traffic needs to get through the most. I see trees planted all over, that, when grown, will block the light from street lights. So, we pay to install street lighting, pay for the electricity to run them, then watch as trees grow to block out the light we’re paying for.

    Planting trees on roadways is not showing proper fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. If I was running things, that would be the end of the tree planting folly. I like trees as much as the next guy, but c’mon, man! Planting them only to incur future costs, future liability, and future problems is stupid.

  3. Jen says:

    Tree cover makes an important difference in how hot neighborhoods get, besides offering aesthetic and pollution benefits. Here is a news story from ABC 13 covering one study-

    Quote from the story: “The Galleria area recorded the hottest temperature at 103 degrees Fahrenheit, differing significantly from the 86-degree temperature recorded in Channelview at the same time.

    The study indicates that environmental factors such as tree cover and amount of paved surface area have the greatest effects on recorded temperatures.”

  4. Ross says:

    Bill, the trees are pretty much maintenance free, and are located so as not to fall on the roadway.

    I can’t see any real reason for this construction. Maybe the bus lanes.

  5. Jen says:

    Bill: Phoenix Arizona is a place which does not have a lot of trees. Here is the summer they had in 2020.
    Most days at 95º or more: 172 in 2020. Old record was 166 in 1989.
    Most days at 100º or more: 145 in 2020. Old record was 143 days in 1989.
    Most days at 105º or more: 102 in 2020. Old record was 87 in 2002.
    Most days at 110º or more: 53 in 2020. Old record was 33 in 2011.
    Most days at 115º or more: 14 days in 2020. Old record was 7 days in 1974.
    Most days with lows at 90º or more: 28 days. Old record was 15 in 2013.

    That is four months with every day over 100 degrees, three solid months with each day over 105, almost two of these months had every day over 110 degrees!

    This is where Houston is headed. Pavements and structures get hot and hold heat overnight, getting hotter the next day. Trees shade pavements and structures and do not hold heat overnight. We need every tree we can get!

  6. Bill Daniels says:


    I don’t disagree with anything you have written. You failed to point out that trees sequester carbon, which seems to be all the rage these days, another benefit of trees. I like trees. I used to have more of them before the pine bark beetle infestation, years back. I just question the cost/benefit of trees on the roadside, particularly trees we plant, then just cut down again to widen said roads.


    I have a lot less problem with trees planted in medians where, at maturity, they can’t reach the roadway. Some of the I-10 plantings, particularly between TC Jester and Studewood, seem like they would grow to endanger the traffic lanes if they fall the wrong way at maturity. My concern about that, though, is directed more at county and city roads, where trees have to be trimmed up so they don’t obstruct trucks on those roads, and that is common here, especially in the city of Houston.

  7. voter_worker says:

    Bill raises valid concerns. There’s smart tree planting and then there’s all the rest. The planting along this section of the Katy Fwy would have had to be thinned out eventually to be viable long term. By planting thickets, immediate effect was achieved but it’s not a long term solution. Now it won’t be a problem because they will be taken out. All over Houston, street tree plantings are done that ignore good design criteria. No tall species should ever be used under overhead lines, but everywhere you look you see this major design flaw. Live oaks should not be planted between the curb and sidewalk in most cases, but they are, everywhere. This contributes to the sad state of Houston’s sidewalk infrastructure. Businesses here and there trim back City street trees that the businesses feel are diminishing their visibility, and the City rarely lifts a finger. Houston is simply not equipped budgetarily or organizationally to adequately care for its public trees. In the case of current freeway projects I hope TxDOT upgrades its planting design budgets and standards to foster long term tree health and lower accrued maintenance costs.

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