We need to pay more attention to the I-10 construction proposals

By which I mostly mean I need to pay more attention to them, because they sound terrible.

Between the shrill of large trucks barreling down Interstate 10 – when only the whoosh of cars dominates the din – Matt Tetlow tries to overcome the noise to talk about how Houston can avoid having the freeway cut into its center.

Tetlow and others are encouraging a redesign of the planned I-10 widening that limits the freeway to the space it now occupies and potentially tops it with open space or development.

“People are going through, clearly, but what about the people along it,” Tetlow said, standing in Cottage Grove Park, steps from the wall dividing the buried freeway from the neighborhood. “What we’re saying is this can be a lot more a part of the community, connect the community, if we put a cap on it.”

The proposal, which has the support of local civic clubs and some local elected officials, is among a handful of proposals related to planned work along I-10, the region’s primary east-west road.


Among the planned projects:

In February, the Texas Department of Transportation presented two options for the managed lanes. One, which many attendees said would be ruinous for the area, adds two managed lanes in each direction level with the existing freeway and widens the state’s right of way. That option claims 52 homes and 30 businesses north of the freeway.

The second, and more palatable to many, option would add the managed lanes on an elevated roadway in the center of the freeway. That keeps the freeway in the same footprint, but poses noise, pollution and light concerns for the neighborhood.

In an email, TxDOT spokeswoman Kristina Hadley said public comments are still being compiled from the meetings, with officials planning more rounds of public meetings before the $682 million-plus project could proceed. Construction could take four years or more.

Late in design – by transportation planning timelines – Tetlow and others are amassing support for a rethink of some I-10 project redesigns that would incorporate covering the freeway from Memorial Park to Patterson, where it is already below city streets. The design, backers say, allows TxDOT to build most, if not all, of the capacity additions it is planning, but in what proponents call a better way.

“We’re not saying do not build it, but build it where it is already and give us something that is not higher or wider and divide the community,” said Joseph Panzarella, who along with Tetlow and others helped organize the No Higher No Wider I-10 plan.

The goal, the duo said, is to work with TxDOT to remake the freeway so it serves the needs of drivers and neighbors alike. The current plan, they and others argue, is tilted too much in favor of through-travel.

“When you hear someone from TxDOT say they want the freeway to be better, what is obvious is they mean better for commuters,” Tetlow said. “What we want is something that is also better for the community, and the cap design kind of delivers that.”

I-10 is already depressed below city streets from near Memorial Park, where it flows under Washington Avenue, to east of Patterson, where it elevates to span atop Yale Street and Heights Boulevard.

The No Higher plan challenges TxDOT to rebuild the freeway, frontage roads and whatever managed lanes possible in the existing space, without elevation, and provide a chance for the neighborhood to cap the freeway.

Capping the freeway gives the neighborhood, and by extension the city, space for everything from parks to trails to affordable housing, Tetlow said – all priorities for the area.

I have talked about this before, mostly the elevating the segment near I-45 portion of it. I learned about No Higher No Wider I-10 through this story, and I’m glad they exist. I hope they work with the Stop I-45 folks and take some lessons from their experiences. What they propose makes a lot of sense but is well outside what TxDOT normally does, and as we know TxDOT doesn’t like to do things it doesn’t normally do. The story also indicates later on that TxDOT has “not discussed the No Higher plan formally with anyone involved”, so there’s a lot of work to be done here. But these guys are quite right that what we all should want is a project that’s better for the whole community, not just the commuters. Getting to that point, that’s the tricky part. Go check out No Higher No Wider I-10 and see what you can do.

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3 Responses to We need to pay more attention to the I-10 construction proposals

  1. Flypusher says:

    Did all those extra lanes solve congestion on the Katy freeway?

  2. C.L. says:

    Freeway construction and urban sprawl is just like ‘Field of Dreams’ – build it and they will come. We’re explorers – you pave 50 miles of pastureland in one direction, folks are gonna wanna drive it and park a house at what they perceive is the end of the road… and that’s always temporary. Katy might was well be called East Sealy at this point.

  3. Bill Shirley says:

    I-10 (“east of heights blvd”) doesn’t casually get flooded. It is only flooded when we’re having catastrophic flooding in Houston. Does there need to be an elevated roadway to bypass catastrophe a few days every few years, while providing increased noise and sound pollution to everyone who lives and works nearby?

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