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In which I vent about Old Spanish Trail

I’m only blogging about this Rad Sallee column today because it took me all day yesterday to quit being so PO’ed about it.

“The OST segment between Texas 288 and Fannin may be one of the slowest projects I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve been living in Houston for a long time,” writes L. Kian Granmayeh.

He lives near the Texas Medical Center and drives daily on Old Spanish Trail, often referred to by its initials.

“It seems like more than a year ago they began working on this less-than-two-mile segment, and about six months ago they stripped off the top layer, leaving a horrible driving surface.

“Since then, they have repaved half of the lanes but the others have been untouched and have manhole covers that protrude from the ground.”

Granmayeh said he seldom sees work being done there, and when he does it’s only a couple of trucks.

“I’d be shocked if this project finishes before rodeo time,” he said.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at Reliant Park will draw lots of additional traffic to the area Feb. 27-March 18.

Old Spanish Trail is a Houston street, but it’s also part of U.S. 90A (as is South Main), so Texas Department of Transportation district engineer Maureen Wakeland fielded this one.

The project has about four more weeks to go, weather cooperating, she said, but given the time of year, “six to eight weeks is more likely.”

Grab leather and brace for more hard riding, rodeo fans.

Wakeland said some of the earlier delay was caused by change orders on the project, but more recently it was the rain and cold. A dry surface and temperatures at least 60 degrees are needed for pouring asphalt, she said.

“When I visit the project for inspection on good consecutive weather days, I see multiple crews working,” Wakeland said.

“I am sensitive to the writer’s inquiry, as I travel the area very regularly. I assure you that I am monitoring the work, and that I am working toward completing the project.”

I don’t know what Maureen Wakeland is smoking, but I drive that segment of OST (the construction actually goes all the way to Kirby) nearly every work day, and I’m here to tell you I haven’t seen a whole lot of work going on, especially lately.

Let’s clarify a few things first. As near as I can tell, the main work that has been done along this stretch of road was to install new sidewalks. Which is fine – there’s actually a decent amount of pedestrian traffic – but why they had to tear up the street to do this is a mystery to me. They didn’t do that all at once – they tore up the right lanes (it’s three lanes each direction) first, then did the sidewalk work, then tore up the other lanes and some of the medians, and finally have done some paving. And yes, it has been months. And months. And months since they started.

When Mr. Granmayeh says “they have repaved half of the lanes”, he means it literally: For at least the stretch near where I work at Greenbriar, the left lane and half of the middle lane on each side is paved. Yes, one and a half paved lanes in each direction. Why? Who knows. But it’s been that way for weeks. What’s especially frustrating is that like many other aspects of this job, that paving occurred very rapidly, then nothing more happened for a long time. Whatever was in those “change orders” Wakeland refers to, they had a hell of an effect.

The icing on the cake for me is that at the intersection of OST and Stadium, which is the entrance I usually take to get to work, the unpaved right lanes on OST are about two inches lower than the paving on Stadium, which means that every time I cross OST at Stadium, I put my car’s suspension at risk. And once again, it’s been this way for many weeks.

Monday was the first day in a long time that I saw some actual work being done. I couldn’t tell you what they were doing, other than blocking two lanes on the westbound side from 288 to Almeda, but they were there. I think it had to do with the medians, both there and nearer to Fannin, where at least they only blocked one lane of traffic.

Far as I can tell, the city is making faster progress on the Kirby storm sewer project than TxDOT is here. Whoever is actually managing this construction effort has done a crappy job.

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  1. They tossed up barrels and tore up streets for both the sidewalk and bike land projects along Westpark a while back.

    Or, as I like to call them, the Illegal Alien Worker Waiting Area And Pickup Zone.

  2. Jim D says:

    You’re absolutely right Kuff. This is one of the crappiest road projects I have seen in years. They were working on this stretch when I evacuated for Rita 18 months ago, and every time I go through there it seems like they’ve gotten no progress done.

    The City’s progress on Kirby is also slow but less so and it is far less grating, if only because the amount of traffic there seems to be… less. That could be, however, because I’m only in the neighborhood after-hours (yay for Rice Village).