May 23, 2004
Some local transportation stuff

Some good news: the shutdown of all exits between I-10 and Loop 610 took less time than expected. Between the work on the Loop and the work on US 59, two of my main routes to many of the places I go are fubared for the foreseeable future, and there are very few good alternatives. And even when all is said and done, the eternally bottlenecked stretch of I-45 known as the Pierce Elevated, which I drive every damn day to and from work, will remain a three-lane parking lot. We can't expand the rail system in this town fast enough for me.

Which brings me to the recent news that the County Commissioners have suddenly and collectively dropped their commuter rail expansion plans like a bad habit, something for which the Chron spanked them. Thanks for nothing, guys.

How about that new Westpark Tollway, huh? Just don't drive on it when it rains.

Though the Westpark is operated by the Harris County Toll Road Authority, contractors for the Texas Department of Transportation built the Post Oak exit because it runs adjacent to new West Loop frontage roads the state is constructing. The two agencies are now trying to sort out who's to blame for the flooding trouble and what can be done to remedy it.

"A temporary fix was in place last week that I understand reduced the problem but evidently didn't eliminate the problem altogether," said Janelle Gbur, Transportation Department spokeswoman. "Our area engineer has asked for a design review and recommendation to permanently fix the problem."

Patricia Friese, spokeswoman for the tollway agency, said county engineers are also examining the situation but responsibility lies with the state.

"It's in TxDOT's court to figure out what the problem is and find a solution to implement it," Friese said.

Gbur, however, said the ramp "was built as designed by the consultant under contract to HCTRA."

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about the tollway addition to the Katy Freeway, doesn't it?

Up north, reader Rob in Humble forwarded me the following email:

Notice to everyone...Metro Route 55, designed to send busses from Greenspoint, down 1960 , left on Timber Forest, right on Upper Lake, past Oaks Elementary, left on Lake Houston Parkway to Kingwood and back. From 5 am to 11 pm, 20 minutes each during peak, 40 minutes during off hours, with stops all over the route...Just what we need.

Public Hearing to protest Metro decision, Tuesday Nite (May 25), Oaks Elementary, 7 pm. Get everyone out...I mean get everyone out to let them know that no one wants a bus route through our community. Please. We need to have 200 minimum. It will affect all of Atascocita. Pass this on. If successful, this is only the beginning for Metro out here.

I can understand not wanting to have a bus route that passes right in front of your house, but...what the hell? What is this guy so upset about? I'm at a loss.

Are you aware of the 2025 Plan and what it would mean to the roads in and around Houston? There have been several opportunities already for public comment, but they've not been well publicized. The Gulf Coast Institute has a lot of info here, including PDFs that highlight proposed additions/widenings/etc in each City Council district. Check it out. And also check out this Chron op-ed in which Mayor White is challenged to deliver what he promised regarding transportation solutions.

Finally, I believe we can now declare the entire debate about light rail in Houston to be over. My mother-in-law, who according to Tiffany has never taken public transportation by herself before in her life, rode the light rail into downtown this week because she didn't want to get gouged for parking. Instead, she drove from her house down Bissonet to the Museum District and found street parking near that stop. She enjoyed the ride and was very happy to be let off a block from where she needed to be. One downside: she didn't get to go by the fountain at Main Street Square. Next time, for sure!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 23, 2004 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

I would be so thrilled if my mother could take a train downtown to go to the opera or theater, and didn't have to drive at night. She lives in Westchase, so it will be a cold day in a hot place I don't believe in before rail comes to her neighborhood, though.

Dunno what those idjits in Atascosita are up in arms about, unless they aren't paying the Metro sales tax penny and want to avoid it.

Posted by: Ginger on May 23, 2004 4:28 PM

Re the flooding and the Katy tollroad. From what I can see, it depends on who does the plans. If HCTRA draws them, we might have a chance. TxDot - we're doomed.

I'm convinced TxDot builds the worst highways in the country. No accelaration ramps. Short radius, unbanked, one lane interchange lanes. Blind merges at 70mph. Flooding.

Posted by: Charles M on May 24, 2004 9:29 AM

Not wanting a bus line to his neighborhood? Beats me. I've heard people complain before about not wanting bus routes in their neighborhood, but given the racist nature of those complaints, I'm guessing Reader Rob has a different problem.

Perhaps it's a traffic issue.

Posted by: Morat on May 24, 2004 10:34 AM

I could be going out on a limb, but I think it may be the same thought process that Georgetown had in D.C. -- What will the metro/bus line bring to our "safe" (meaning white) neighborhood? A route from Greenspoint to Kingwood -- look to the demographics and then reread his e-mail. I could be wrong, but I did grow up in this neck of the woods. Actually, I really hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: T on May 24, 2004 4:12 PM

I just read the Atascocita Observer, and the proposed Route 55 through Kingwwod/Humble was front page news. Every quote in the article was anti-bus. A lot of whining about how kids would get hit because the route goes past an elementary school. I don't know what the big deal is (not being from here), you have to get on FM 1960 to go anywhere in this area, and it is a real pain in the neck.

Anyone know where I can get a map of the new route? I wanna try it one day when I am stuck here for summer school.

Posted by: Anand on May 25, 2004 9:22 PM

Well things can change fast. This is the story about Tuesday evening's meeting:

Now today - less than 48 hours - the Metro signs are gone. I haven't seen a press release yet but it appears things have been rerouted off of the residential streets.

I don't know whether it is a wise move or not, as FM 1960 is a horrible things for pedestrians, but no one can complain about Metro being unresponsive.

Posted by: Rob on May 27, 2004 5:10 PM