Big plans for 288, but it could be betterJust got back from TXDoT's public meeting on 288 improvements. Unfortunately I didn't get as long as I'd like - I got there at 7:45, and you'd be amazed how fast they shut down the place at 8pm sharp. Generally good news, although I think there's one or two flaws in their plan. First the good items:
- 4-lane EZ-tag toll road down the median of the existing 288 (almost certainly with congestion pricing)
- They were very clear to emphasize there will be no tolling on the existing mainlanes
- New ramps at 610 and Beltway 8 that cleverly combine together traffic from both the free and paid lanes (right exit in the toll lanes, left exit in the free lanes)
- A particularly cool feeder into the Medical Center: northbound 288 will have a 3-lane exit (!) to 610 westbound. If you stay in the right lane of the exit ramp, it will curve off along the median of Almeda, crossover Holly Hall, and then merge you into Almeda.
- It also seems well designed to take outbound Med Center traffic south on Fannin, Cambridge, or Almeda, get it onto 610 eastbound and then a ramp with choices into either the free or tolled 288 southbound lanes
- Current plan is construction start by 2010, with completion in stages between 2012 and 2014
- Right now the tolled lanes stop just before 59, but the expert we talked to said there is a long-term master plan to connect them up past downtown, to Hardy/45. It was very vague. I have absolutely no idea how that would work other than a tunnel.
I do have one other, "bigger picture" concern. 288 is about as single-directional as freeways get in Houston - almost all the traffic is inbound in the mornings, and outbound in the evenings. There aren't a lot of jobs in Brazoria County, and even for the ones there are, not too many of those workers commute south from Houston. That means half the toll road is likely to be pretty much empty at rush hour (why ride in the toll lanes when the counter-flow free lanes are free-flowing?). That's a waste. It seems like it would make more sense to build four (or more) reversable one-way lanes - all inbound in the morning, and all outbound in the evening. I know this is a complicated engineering problem, but it really would get a lot more utilization and ultimately bring in more toll revenue. And it's not that crazy when you think about it. If you look at the amount of land available for development out there, eventually it could easily support 7-8 lanes of capacity in the rush hour direction. When you think about it, that's about what we have in the 45/Hardy corridor, and it's close to what we'll have in the more bi-directional new Katy corridor. If I were Brazoria County officials and I wanted growth and economic development like Ft. Bend or Montgomery Counties, I'd take a serious look at pushing TXDoT to do more reversable one-way capacity than two-way.