290 Finished in 2019? No One Believes It, But It Probably Is True

Flooding is one of the culprits behind the delay in completion of U.S 290.
Flooding is one of the culprits behind the delay in completion of U.S 290. Photo by Meagan Flynn
KTRK-TV recently posted a link to a story about how TxDOT is scheduled to complete the massive 38-mile U.S. 290 construction project within about a year. This includes a bridge currently being constructed to go over the freeway at SH-6/FM 1960. The responses on Twitter were predictable, most of which were to the tune of this one:

Frankly, it's understandable. As someone who lives along the 290 corridor, I can attest it is a brutal stretch of construction. I have personally dealt with more flat or leaking tires as a result of construction zones in the last three years than in my entire life previous to that.

Having said that, perception of highway constructions projects rarely reflects reality. From the moment construction began in June 2011, it was anticipated to take seven years. We are shy of that by about two months. And while the fact that this project will clearly go beyond its projected completion date is disappointing, consider what has happened in those seven years, most notably, the weather.

During that time, the city has had three generational floods. The first two—the Memorial Day flood of 2015 and the Tax Day flood of 2016—took particularly hard aim at the area around the Beltway and 290, in addition to western and southwestern Houston. Then came Hurricane Harvey, which devastated much of the city. Going through one of those floods would be problematic for any large scale construction project, but three within the timeline is downright devastating.

There have been some other problems as well, but the fact that TxDOT remains relatively close to on track is pretty amazing considering.

This should be a cautionary tale with massive projects planned for the West Loop-Southwest Freeway interchange and all of Interstate 45 between the University of Houston and the North Belt. The latter of those two could take more than a decade and cause far greater headaches for a bigger segment of the population. So, be prepared, because if you thought 290 was frustrating, it's only just begun.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke