Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Houston gets kudos for Westpark toll road


2005.08.14 HOUSTON AREA

Westpark Tollway opens in Fort Bend Co TX

The Westpark Tollway extension in Fort Bend County on the western fringe of the Houston area opened Aug 10. The extension in Fort Bend County takes the Westpark Tollway from central Houston at US59 and the inner belt I-610 out 32km (20mi) to TX99, the Grand Parkway. The Westpark Tollway of 23km (14mi) was completed within Harris County in three stages, heading west, the first opening May 1 2004 to a bit beyond the Sam Houston Tollway, and another to Highway 6 on Oct 9 2004. The third opened to FM1464 at the Fort Bend/Harris county lines Jun 8 2005.

The road is a striking demonstration of how Texans lead the rest of the U.S. in skill and economy of roadbuilding and willingness to embrace cutting edge technology.

The new extension in Fort Bend Co has no cash toll collection. It is full highway speed open road transponder tolling, like the HCTRA part of the Westpark Tollway.

Economy: for $70m they built a motorway standard pike of 8.9km (5.5mi), 2x2 lanes mainline, 5 sets of slip lanes to frontage roads, 4 interchanges with bridges long enough for those frontage road U-turns, the pavement all out of foot thick (300mm) fully reinforced concrete, plus toll systems. Cost per lane-mile of mainline: $3.14m ($1.97m/lane-km). [Here in Maryland, sadly, we have spent something like $70m on studies, permitting, public outreach on our new tollroad, the Inter County Connector, and that is before detailed design has been done, let alone construction begun!]

Other technical details, as well as pictures and some paragraphs on the Ft. Bend Parkway, are at the link. Toll violations have also dropped from 16% to 2% on the road as people figured out the EZ-tag-only requirement.

My favorite picture caption:
"Houston is tidal swamp so serious roads have pavement built like bridge deck out of heavily reinforced concrete "

Nothing attracts new residents, developers, and growth like a good 'ole "tidal swamp", eh?

(headed to San Antonio - probably no more posts until next week)


At 1:52 PM, August 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't stop thinking that a comment Hunter S. Thompson once made about Phoenix applies here:

"If there is in fact, a heaven and a hell, all we know for sure is that hell will be a visciously overcrowded version of Phoenix— a clean well lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except those who know in their hearts what is missing... And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one thing you want is not there."

At 2:15 PM, August 18, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yet "hell" (Phoenix) seems to be continually ranked as one of the fastest growing metros in the country with incoming refugees from "heaven" (i.e. CA)...

At 4:52 PM, August 18, 2005, Blogger Owen Courrèges said...


Just because you or Thomson wouldn't want to live in a city like Phoenix, doesn't mean that most people who elect to live there aren't perfectly happy there. It's a grand myth that a grimy inner-city, full of yuppies with coffee shops and eclectic bars everywhere, is everyone's paradigm of the perfect living environment. In fact, that's not the ideal for most people, hence the phenomenal growth of the suburbs.

At 6:30 PM, August 18, 2005, Blogger Max Concrete said...

The Fort Bend County section of the Westpark Tollway was built amazingly quickly. I took a series of photos in September 2004 and work was just getting started. Now it is done!

At 3:04 AM, August 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, according to an article published earlier this year in the Harvard Design Magazine, people most often prefer something called a "garden city" that is neither cookie-cutter suburban nor dense inner-city.

At 9:43 AM, August 19, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'll bet they do! Hmmm, would I like to have my own affordable garden estate, but right outside of it would be every convenience I could desire without all those troublesome people and traffic needed to support those businesses? Tough call...

At 11:27 PM, August 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually, most people who flee to the suburbs really do think they will be able to live on peaceful garden estates without the hassle of traffic or business, a fantasy sadly encouraged by highway subsidies which enable developers to push further and further out. today's Fulbrook is tomorrow's Nottingham.

but seriously, "garden cities" really do exist. see the issue of HDM for more info.


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