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Houston Traffic Hotspots: The Clear Lake Narrows

Driving to Galveston? Pack a lunch.
Driving to Galveston? Pack a lunch.

In this series, I take a look at places around Houston to avoid during rush hour and offer some alternatives that might keep you from going road rage and killing somebody.

Anytime you need to make a trek out to Clear Lake, Kemah or Galveston, you are practically forced to endure the pain that is the narrowing of the freeway just south of Beltway 8 near Clear Lake. It brings traffic to a crawl, particularly during the summer months when every teenager and family of 10 gets on the road to the beach.

Location: Gulf Freeway at Dixie Farm Road Direction: South/Outbound Time of Day: Worst in Evening Rush and Weekends Probable Destinations: Clear Lake City, Kemah, Galveston Landmarks: Deserted prairie, a Mega Church

What's the holdup?

Right past Beltway 8, Interstate 45 South begins to narrow from four lanes down to three. As it does, traffic comes to a standstill virtually at all hours of the day and night. It is particularly bad during rush hour and because it is the preferred route to places like Kemah and Galveston, Saturday and Sunday can also be brutal.   Easiest Alternative:

To Galveston:

Highway 3. Known as the Old Galveston Highway, it parallels the Gulf Freeway to the east. Unfortunately, it can also become ensnared with traffic thanks to the explosion of Clear Lake City.

To Clear Lake:

225 to Beltway 8 to Genoa Red Bluff. This is a sneaky smart way to get to Clear Lake and a fascinating drive through the heart of Pasadena's chemical refineries. Hold your breath and you'll be fine.

Complicated Alternative:

288. It goes southeast instead of straight south, but you can cut over on Highway 6 and take that nearly all the way to Galveston or take 518 through Pearland over to Friendswood.

More Adventurous Alternative:

Take 288 all the way to Surfside Beach and go up the coast to Galveston along the Blue Water Highway. It's a lovely, scenic drive if a bit out of the way. And since you are going to the beach, why not skip Galveston altogether and just hang in Surfside, which is awesome.

Have a favorite (or least favorite) traffic hotspot? Drop a note in the comments.


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