Demolition for another Houston treasure?
I recently received this link to a ULI event on a "Houston Vision" for downtown. The proposal to sink I45 - and now I10 - has been noted before, including in the Chronicle. My first thought has always been, "that looks incredibly expensive - would it be worth it?" I have a lot of respect for what they're trying to do downtown, and I think they've had some remarkable success. But this seems like over-reaching to me. Maybe I'm just not seeing the value. And I know some of the neighborhoods that would be affected by the freeway shift to the west would go nuts protesting. The sketch seems misleading to me too. Click on it to see the full size - notice anything missing? Like, say, Buffalo Bayou? I see a continuous depressed I45 in a trench with no water crossing over it. How does that work?
Until last night, I was skeptical but moderately neutral on the proposal. What happened last night, you may ask? My wife and I went downtown to Artista at the Hobby Center for dinner for our 5th wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful dinner on the balcony with perfect weather and the best restaurant view in Houston over Tranquility Park and the downtown skyline - I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance. But what changed my mind was the drive in from 45N. That drive, especially at night, is one of the most spectacular drives in our city. The view of downtown is amazing. I just love the elevated wrap-around of the west side of downtown, with the skyline on one side and the Buffalo Bayou on the other. I've loved that drive as long as I've lived in Houston, and sometimes will go out of my way on trips just to see it. Friends, family, and visitors have voiced their admiration too. It really is one of our city's great treasures, even if it is "just a freeway." And it's a treasure shared by just about everyone that lives in Houston at one time or another as they drive around the city, vs. the very small portion that actually work, live, or play downtown. We want to give that up for another trench view of concrete walls?
Sinking an elevated freeway often makes a lot of sense, like what they did with 59 around Montrose. But in this case we'd be giving up a treasure we won't miss until it's gone. Downtown folks, it's time to modify your vision.
Update: Christof weighs in.