Driving Houston and a Nonexistent "Masterpiece"

Spaced City

Miles of Bad Road
Houston's worst driving experiences



Houston driving headaches

Houston is perhaps the most car-centric city in the nation, if not the world. You walk here, you get funny looks.

But for a city that loves its cars, officials have sure designed some driver-hating pieces of road.

Whether they're intersections gone bad or baffling pieces of highway, Houston has some Roads Gone Wrong. They're not necessarily the most dangerous, but they're all highly annoying.

Here are our top five:

1. Shepherd/Greenbriar and the Southwest Freeway. You can be sure of one thing if you're trying to get onto 59 South from southbound Shepherd: The driver in front of you, trying to do the same thing, will waste time merging all the way over to the curb only to realize later he'll have to merge back to the left to get on the highway. This poorly marked, semi-triangular intersection requires a lot of guesswork, and the guy in front of you is always going to guess wrong. (If only to prove the point, technically at that point southbound drivers are on Farnham — what? — and not Shepherd.)

2. The 610 Loop and the Gulf Freeway. In some directions it's fine; in others it's a flashback to the '50s and the time when highways came to a complete stop in towns. If you're headed east on the South Loop and want to go downtown on I-45, or you're on I-45 and want to head west on the South Loop, your path between these two major highways is not a hassle-free ramp, it's a freaking stop sign and 90-degree turn. Why? We like to believe it was a plot to force people to consider stopping at the then-new Gulfgate Mall.

3. Main and Richmond/Wheeler. An enervating hodgepodge of streets and rail lines. Some people argue the stretch of light rail through the Medical Center is the most annoying in town, but we think this bit of line takes the cake. You're lucky if you can get through it without two red lights and a rail barrier coming down on you. And then there's the confusion caused by people trying to make turns or use lanes they can't. It all adds up to fun!!

4. The southwest corner of the Loop. The unfortunate convergence of 610, Post Oak and Bellfort causes agita coming and going from work. Headed to work on Bellfort? A genius design has two lanes taking the left turn to go north onto the Loop...and then within five feet drivers have to merge into one lane to get on the entrance ramp. So you've got people who go wide in the second lane, passing the more patient people, suddenly fighting their way onto the ramp, as the passive-aggressive drivers who waited on the inside lane studiously pretend they don't see anyone trying to cut in.

Heading home from downtown, if you're on the South Loop and are looking to get onto Bellfort, you must overcome the Merge of Death involving three lanes of home-hungry drivers on Post Oak. It's no place for the weak, or for those who like well-designed intersections.

5. The entrance ramp to 59 South from Milam. You like Death Merges? Getting on 59 from Milam is the place for you. First you have to negotiate the tricky three-ramp decision just south of the Alabama intersection, which will almost always involve the guy in front of you making the wrong decision and then trying to rectify it in the most dangerous way possible. The fun only starts there, however: You then face a short on-ramp, where your efforts to see if anyone's heading towards you at 60 mph are hampered by a high, vision-blocking concrete wall. You then have about, oh, maybe two, two-and-a-half feet to merge into that lane at full speed. All the while making sure the guy in front of you hasn't decided to slam on his brakes.

The funny part is if you just shift over two blocks on your way out of downtown, onto Smith Street, you have a veritable red carpet onto the same highway.

Any others to suggest?


Because We Say It Is
Rice declares nonexistent artwork will be
a "masterpiece"

By Richard Connelly

Rice University has announced that, as the headline on the release put it, a "Multi-Million Dollar Gift Will Bring Turrell Masterpiece To Rice."

A donation from alum Suzanne Deal Booth has allowed the school to commission a large work by noted artist James Turrell that will be built once plans are approved and — Wait, the designs aren't even approved yet and you're calling this thing a "masterpiece"?

Who's calling it a masterpiece?

"We are," says Rice spokeswoman Jessica Stark.

Yeah, but it's not built yet. The design isn't even approved, meaning it could be changed, right?

"Oh, you're just splitting hairs," she says. "His works usually are masterpieces, and we expect this one to be just the same."

Hmm — a guy who regularly churns out masterpieces. We can't tell if you're getting your money's worth or not.

At any rate, the Turrell installation will be a large, lighted thing that people can sit in or walk through and contemplate life, or the Owls football team, or the free-and-easy way things get labeled masterpieces, we guess.

Still, it's an impressive gift, we'll admit.

"Art is an important part of the experience and environment we want to bring to our students, faculty and staff," Rice President David Leebron said in a release. "Art can be uplifting and broaden your perspective. It can inspire you. This is going to be a very significant addition to the campus and important for the city of Houston."

Booth says she hopes the (master)piece will "become iconic for the university and encourage people worldwide to visit Rice and Houston." It won't be visible from the surrounding streets, but should be highly visible once you're on campus.

It will be installed in front of the Shepherd School of Music, henceforth known as the "Home of Masterpieces."


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