Ice House

Reasons to Cheer and Cry With Houston Freeway Construction

Yes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for a few notable construction projects. Unfortunately, that light might be an oncoming train.

By Jeff Balke February 28, 2018 Published in the March 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Soon, you won't have to see this on 290!

Image: Shutterstock

Reason to Cheer: Completion of Highway 290

Reason to Cry: Reconstruction of the Loop 610/Interstate 69 Interchange

Has there been a more painstakingly awful project than what TxDOT hath wrought upon denizens of the northwest part of Houston? After construction fell a little behind schedule thanks to multiple flooding events and, oh yeah, the original contractor defaulting on the 38-mile project, a good portion of 290 is expected to be complete in 2018, which feels like nothing short of a miracle. Sadly, however, that’s just in time for what promises to be one of the city’s most needed, yet terrifying, upcoming projects: the reconstruction of the 69/610 interchange, which many Houstonians who live off 290 take into town, and which is already the worst traffic spot in the city. Imagine it under construction for seven years, God help you.

Reason to Cheer: Completion of Interstate 45 South

Reason to Cry: Expansion of I-45 North

The road to Galveston used to pass through what some drivers referred to as the Clear Lake Narrows, a passage of 45 just south of the Beltway which slowed traffic so badly, it felt like an Old West ambush in a dusty canyon. With work from the Beltway south to NASA Road 1 now finished, all appears to be well. That is, until you realize that the decade-long project to expand 45 heading north from UH, through downtown, and all the way to Greenspoint—perhaps the most ambitious road construction plan in the city’s history—is already underway. And you thought 290 was a nightmare!

Reason to Cheer: Pretty Lights on I-69 Overpasses in Montrose

Reason to Cry: Construction on I-69 Between Spur 527 and Downtown

“Isn’t it beautiful?” you think as you drive along 69 between Shepherd and Main, which was spruced up just in time for last year’s Super Bowl. The colorful lights, the architectural bridges—it’s all so, well, lovely in a city not known for such things. And it's so nice that the mayor wants to find a permanent solution for keeping the pretty lights on after the Montrose Management District had to shut them off. But then it hits you. If you’re traveling north, soon, the lights will be nothing but a mirage leading you straight into Satan’s lair. Traffic around the Spur and through the interchange of 69, 45 and 288 has always been bad, but nobody will know what hell truly is until 2020, the start of construction on the interchange, expected to last a few years. We’re not crying; you’re crying!

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