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Memorial Drive

Small fix, big (we hope) effect

This would be nice.

Take the entrance ramp from Allen Parkway to southbound Interstate 45. Everyone from drivers to transportation officials knows it is a problem.

“At this location there are entrance ramps from both Memorial Drive and from Allen Parkway which merge onto the freeway on the right and left sides, respectively, at the same location,” said Raquelle Lewis, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation. “This is an unusual arrangement and is unexpected from a driver’s perspective. This configuration is the cause of nearly constant congestion at this location as main lane traffic slows to accommodate merging traffic on both sides of the freeway.”

Entering and exiting freeways to street traffic from the left long ago fell out of favor as a design option, and is largely a holdover only in metro areas. Studies have shown left entrances and exits cause drivers to make hazardous, split-second aggressive moves, for example.


Toward the end of 2015, work will start to redesign the entrance ramps so Memorial and Allen Parkway both merge from the right side of the southbound lanes. It’s a fix, at $2 million, that is much cheaper than more lanes or some gigantic rehabilitation of the freeway. The effect, however, might be greater than $2 million usually buys.

Like the alterations to I-45 south of downtown, this project is funded by the mechanism created by the adoption of statewide Proposition 1 last year. I presume what they’ll be doing here is rerouting the Allen Parkway ramp to the other side of the freeway, so there will be just one entrance on the right. That will help, but my guess is it won’t make that much difference. In my experience, the vast majority of entering traffic comes from there already, and the often steady flow of vehicles on the short merge lane is a big cause of the bottleneck there. (I would also note that it’s not that long ago there was no merge lane at all – on either side at that juncture, you were pretty much entering from a stop.) The bigger problem is that I-45 narrows down to two lanes at the exit for US59/SH288. The solution to that, if there really is a viable one, isn’t going to be that cheap or that easy.

Like a bridge over Memorial Park

Some fascinating ideas for ensuring the long-term health of Memorial Park.

Today Memorial Park is a land divided.

The city’s premiere park stretches across 1,500 acres, almost twice as large as New York’s Central Park. But to Thomas Woltz of the internationally renowned landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, it feels much smaller. Over time the land has been divided into 24 tracts by roads, an elevated railroad, a power easement and recreational amenities.

That could change during the next 20 years if a long-range master plan being proposed by Woltz’s firm is adopted next spring by the Houston City Council. Hired in 2013 by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Uptown Houston tax increment reinvestment zone and the privately funded Memorial Park Conservancy, the firm is nearly three months into a 10-month design process.

At a public meeting Wednesday, Woltz presented his firm’s initial design strategies and the reasoning behind them – ideas driven by previous public input and a year’s research by a team of about 70 local experts in fields like soil science, ecology, history and archaeology.

He shared maps, drawings and aerial views to explain the park’s ecological and cultural histories, also unveiling a dramatic solution to one of the landscape’s biggest problems. He’s proposing a grass- and tree-covered land bridge, 800 feet long, that would rise gently across Memorial Drive, over a tunnel, to reconnect the park’s north and south sides.

While it’s not realistic to remove the street, which is crucial to Houston’s traffic circulation, the land bridge is “a kind of triumph … the park wins,” Woltz said.

The current pedestrian bridge on the park’s western side, completed in 2009, was an important first gesture toward stitching the park’s landscape back together, Woltz said. “This land bridge builds on that beginning at a much larger scale.”


Project director Sarah Newbery of Uptown Houston said the Uptown Houston TIRZ is committed to spending $100 million to $150 million on the restoration projects and infrastructure; a figure that could change with property values. Memorial Park Conservancy executive director Shellye Arnold said her group is studying how much it can raise in the next 10 or 20 years toward the effort.

“But we think of this in terms of a 100-year or 75-year plan. We’ll execute large parts of it in the next three to 15 years; but there can be a road map for the next generation as well.”

Woltz expects to reveal designs that incorporate Camp Logan remnants at the next public meeting on Nov. 10.

“We’re looking for ways the landscape could function as a memorial to the soldiers and maybe even reveal some of the grid,” he said.

A Jan. 12 meeting is titled “Spaces and Places: How Will It Look?” The final March 9 meeting promises a more comprehensive revealing of the plan.

See here, here, and here for some background. The TIRZ in question is also the one helping to fund the Uptown BRT line. Some more material from the architect is here. What do you think about this? Link via Swamplot.

The bridge formerly known as Tolerance

Remember Tolerance Bridge? That was the bridge that was supposed to connect pedestrian and bike trails along Allen Parkway with those on Memorial Drive near Montrose Boulevard. Unfortunately, no one liked the name, so the Houston Arts Alliance was sent back to the drawing board. They’ve finished their work, and last Saturday work was started on the new crossing.

When completed, the Rosemont Bridge will provide pedestrians, bicyclists and joggers with a safe route across Memorial Drive to Buffalo Bayou Park. The bridge will span Memorial Drive and Buffalo Bayou and connect the two sides of Buffalo Bayou Park, west of Eleanor Tinsley Park and east of the Studemont-Montrose Boulevard Bridge. The new bridge will also connect to a new trail being built along Memorial Drive. This trail will run from the Sabine Street Bridge to Spotts Park and will allow joggers a new alternative for outdoor exercise.

Sadly, according to Offcite, the Alliance was unable to raise the funds for the way-cool Moebius Strip sculpture that was to go with the bridge. Alas. Click that link to see pictures and scans of the full plans for the bridge. I don’t know what the expected completion date is, so we’ll see if this is ready in time for the Art Car Parade or not.

Catch the WAve

The following is a message from Super Neighborhood 22:

Catch the WAve Day, all day Saturday March 7

Hosted by: SN22, Mayor White’s Office of Special Events, and MECA

Purpose: To showcase area businesses, schools & non-profits, plus an eco-fair and children’s activities

What’s going on:

  • Washington Ave corridor businesses will be offering special values & incentives
  • Grab a go.rev.go electro-cab from one participating business to another (for tips)
  • Eco-Fair from 1-5 in Spotts Park (corner of Memorial Drive & Waugh)**

** Spotts Park will feature live music and performances by MECA, a Children’s Spott with special interactions, and the Eco-Fair, with Go Green reps from city departments, plus a host of green community organizations.

Click on to see the flyers for more details.