Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Relieving the north-south traffic bottleneck

Spend some time in Houston traffic, and you'll soon realize two of the biggest freeway headaches are the downtown tangle and the 610 West Loop by the Galleria. Look at a map, and you'll see these are major north-south chokepoints. Hopefully the West Loop construction will relieve some of that problem, but what to do about downtown?

If Spur 527 off 59 could be connected through Midtown all the way up to 45, it would take a huge load off the Pierce and 59 elevateds and the bottlenecks between them (area map). How to do this without destroying the recently revived Midtown neighborhood? Simple: build one-way, two-lane, cut-and-cover tunnels underneath Bagby and Brazos connected into the nice, broad, already-in-existence entrance and exit ramps to/from 45. Sure, tunnels aren't cheap, but we're only talking about 3/4 of a mile here, and cutting and covering a trench is certainly cheaper than boring a tunnel. It would probably actually improve the neighborhood by taking short-cutters like me off Bagby and Brazos.

This Word document has more details, including maps.

(BTW, if you were wondering, this is not the traffic congestion solution referred to in the kickoff post.)

Update 12/9/10
An email from Peter one one reasonably affordable approach:

I talked to a guy named Curtis from OldCastle in North Carolina who said that he could lay 200 feet of tunnel a day using a combination of both precast split box culverts and a precast bridge--40 feet wide by 16 feet tall.   That is two full 12 foot lanes with 8 foot shoulders on each side.
Basically he would lay a 40 foot wide precast split culvert bottom half and put a 40 foot wide precast bridge on top of it.  That would accommodate full truck heights.
The cost is roughly 40 million a mile. Two 3/4 mile sections under Bagby and Brazos streets would cost 60-80 million.



At 9:27 PM, March 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea of a tunnel in Midtown is intriguing. Very European. As long as we're talking tunnels, why not also put the Piere Elevated in a tunnel from roughly that same Bagby St. area until close to the US-59 intersection? This too is a short run, and it would allow the opportunity to re-connect Midtown to Downtown, basically creating a much bigger CBD.

At 9:55 PM, March 11, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Sinking the Pierce is an interesting idea, but a substantially more complex and expensive one. Some difficulties:
-building it while keeping the very critical elevated open
-connecting it into the tangle at 59 with all the elevation changes
-since it was very recently rebuilt, I imagine TXDoT will want to get a couple more decades of use out of it before looking at a teardown

But I definitely agree it should be integrated into long-term visions for downtown and midtown for the next time it is up for maintenance review. In the meantime, maybe there are some aesthetic improvements that could be made similar to the painting of the underside of the 59 elevated by the convention center? Maybe some nice murals and lighting for key sidewalks underneath the elevated?

At 1:12 PM, March 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't the Big Dig about 2 miles? I realize it's (mostly) a true tunnel and not a trench, but $15B and climbing...ugh


At 6:05 PM, March 23, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

A couple orders of magnitude different scale.

Some Big Dig stats:
-161 lane miles
-4 major freeway interchanges, partially underground
-included a new 10-lane suspension bridge
-multiple entrance and exit ramps
-custom-made tunnelling equipment
-utility relocations on a massive scale

This proposal is 3 lane miles (4 lanes x 3/4 mile), trench construction, no tunnel-boring, no interchanges, no entrance or exit ramps (other than the entrances at each end, but the above-ground ramps already exist), and minimal utility relocations. It won't be as cheap as at-grade, but it is far cheaper than any redo of any of the freeway tangle around downtown. Bang for the buck should be substantial.

At 6:18 PM, March 23, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

A good comparison for this project would be the below-ground-level 610 feeder extensions currently being built under 59, the only difference being the need to cover over the trenches with the Bagby and Brazos road surfaces at the end.


Post a Comment

<< Home