Reducing pass-through truck trafficYou may have noticed an awful lot of big 18-wheeler trucks on Houston freeways. Trucks are great for commerce, but not so great for traffic congestion. Plenty of those trucks are beginning or ending in Houston, and there's not too much you can do about those. But plenty of trucks are just passing through, usually along either I-10 or 59 (map). If there where a way we could get them to go around Houston instead of through it, we'd all be better off: less congestion for us and faster trips for them (since they hate Houston traffic as much as we do).
Now, routes like Beltway 8 don't help too much, because they add a lot of distance to a trucker's route, esp. east-west along I-10. But the new Grand Parkway - when it's finally built - opens up an interesting possibility. If you look at the map, if Highway 90 heading straight west from Beaumont were upgraded to a full freeway (or something close to it, like 71 to Austin), it could connect into the Grand Parkway in northeast Harris County, which would create a complete bypass around the city with almost no added distance for truckers. I haven't driven that segment of 90, so I don't know it's current status or how expensive this upgrade would be, but it could finally offer some substantial truck-traffic relief for Houston, esp. east-west I-10 traffic and some 59 traffic to-from Mexico.
The next question is: given the expected tolls, will trucks seriously consider the bypass? And if not, should we do the counter-intuitive thing and actually discount tolls for heavy trucks on the Grand Parkway to draw them off the congested interior freeways? (which certainly may be more valuable than the lost toll revenue) If we wanted to get even more sophisticated, could we keep the rates same *except* for certain combinations of entrance and exit. For example, it might be fully tolled if they get on the GP northbound in Katy and get off most exits, but they get a discount if they go all the way around to the 90 exit in Liberty County. Local trucks pay full tolls (or pass-thrus when the GP is their best route), but pass-thrus with options get a reward for avoiding the city core. It might be tricky figuring out all of the right entrance-exit combinations and tolls (and if pass-thru trucks don’t have EZ-tag, can we do it off license plates or paper tickets as other parts of the world do?), but I think it could be done for marginal cost and potentially large congestion reduction (an 18-wheeler removed is the same as removing 3-6 cars!).
If you know anybody with TXDoT or HCTRA, please pass this along.