Managed express lanes on I-45 N. and re-routing the freeway downtown: Find out TxDOT’s plans for the corridor

TxDOT's plans to improve I-45 includes re-alignment of some of the downtown freeway system.

TxDOT's plans to improve I-45 includes re-alignment of some of the downtown freeway system.

Construction on the initial part of a $7 billion project to overhaul I-45 from Beltway 8 in North Houston to Spur 527 at I-69 near downtown is expected to begin by 2020, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project spans 24 miles and is needed to address inadequate highway capacity for existing and future traffic demands along the corridor, according to TxDOT. Between 2015 and 2040, average daily traffic volumes in the corridor are projected to increase by as much as 30 percent.

TxDOT, which is gathering public comments for the project through June 27, will host a public hearing for the project at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Houston Community College Central Campus.

What’s the plan?


Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 12.30.49 PMSegment 1: Beltway 8 North to Loop 610 

• Add four MaX lanes—high-occupancy vehicle and toll lanes—with two-way, 24/7 operations
• Add one frontage road lane in each direction
• Add full-width shoulders
• Add bike/pedestrian features along frontage roads
• New right of way would be acquired primarily from the west side of I-45

Segment 2: Loop 610 to I-10Segment 2 I-45

• Add four MaX lanes—high-occupancy vehicle and toll lanes—with two-way, 24/7 operations
• Add full-width shoulders
• Add bike/pedestrian features along frontage roads
• Near North Main Street, the general-purpose lanes and MaX lanes would be below grade, and the frontage roads would be at-grade. This creates an option for an open space concept in the area between the frontage roads; it would require additional funding partners.

Segment 3: Downtown HoustonSegment 3 I-45
• Re-route I-45 to be parallel with I-10 on the north side of downtown and parallel to I-69 on the east side of downtown
• I-69 would be depressed from the east side of downtown to Spur 527, providing an opportunity for a structural cap over the lanes that could be used as open space. The concept would require additional development and funding partners.
• The existing elevated section of I-45 on the west and south sides of downtown, known as the Pierce Elevated, would be replaced by downtown connectors to allow access to and from various downtown streets.
• Two express lanes in each direction would be constructed on I-10 from west of I-45 to east of I-69, allowing through traffic on I-10 to bypass downtown.
• Portions of I-10 and I-69 would be realigned.

Funding and timeline: 6 things to know

• The estimated construction cost for the project is $7 billion.

• Funding for the initial phases of construction has been identified, and construction is expected to begin in 2020.

• As part of a March update of the Unified Transportation Plan, TxDOT presented roughly $8 billion in projects to begin executing over the next four years, which includes funding for some of the I-45 overhaul.

• TxDOT will finalize the environmental analysis between 2017-18 and receive a project decision by 2018.

• Right of way acquisition could begin between 2018-2020.

• The first project involves the section of I-69 from Spur 527 to Hwy. 288. Construction would be phased as additional funding is identified, progressing from south to north.
By Marie Leonard
Marie came to Community Impact Newspaper in June 2011 after starting her career at a daily newspaper in East Texas. She worked as a reporter and editor for the Cy-Fair edition for nearly 5 years covering Harris County, Cy-Fair ISD, and local development and transportation news. She then moved to The Woodlands edition and covered local politics and development news in the master-planned community before being promoted to managing editor for the South Houston editions in July 2017.


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