I45 expansion plans and Woodland HeightsThere's a lot of noise around this issue: the Chronicle, BlogHouston, and Off the Kuff. And all kinds of solutions are being thrown around: tunnels, elevateds, and the ever-popular "nothing" (both sides: either don't change the plan or don't widen at all). And I have previously posted my own solution for minimizing right-of-way needs with managed lanes, and I'd love to find a TXDoT person that could explain to me why it would or wouldn't work.
On a lark, I decided to check out the facts, aka "the situation on the ground". Check out this Google satellite map of the Woodland Heights area at 45. The simple fact is, as far as Woodland Heights is concerned, the right-of-way is already there. Yes, it's a set of steeply sloping hillsides, but that's also what 59 used to have inside of Shepherd, and they widened it quite nicely by simply putting in vertical walls - no extra RoW needed, no houses condemned. They may have to do a little clever ramp work like the depressed section of Central in Dallas, but it seems very doable. Throw in some nice new sound walls, and I'll bet residents would end up better off than they are now, where the hillsides project the sound right up into their houses. I don't know why TXDoT doesn't point this out and diffuse peoples' fears.
Now, go a little bit north of Woodland Heights - just north of N. Main - and you can see where the RoW is very, very tight. Not sure what the right solution is there, but I think the simplist would be to remove the feeders and widen the trench. Those feeders end just south of there anyway, so it may not be much of a mobility loss. Maybe keep one feeder lane on each side if necessary, but hang it out over the trench, again like Central in Dallas.
What's needed overall? A little more calm, reason, dialogue, openness, and simplicity - on both sides. Why does every mobility project in this city have to be an all-out war?