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.
Most people don't travel I-45 north unless they have to do so. It is mostly a barren wasteland of strip malls, abandoned car dealerships and Gallery Furniture. The primary reason for taking it would be if you are going to the airport or live in Spring or The Woodlands. For me, I grew up on the near north side, so this was my joy nearly every single day, which is why I chose it first.
The good news is that slow downs are not horrible in the area unless there is also a wreck. The bad news is there aren't great alternatives to getting around it if you have to stay close to 45.
Location: North Freeway at Shepherd Direction: North/Outbound Time of Day: Evening rush hour Probable Destinations: Bush Intercontinental Airport, Spring, The Woodlands Landmarks: Abandoned car dealerships, the Adult Video MegapleXXX, despair
What's the holdup?
The North Freeway has to make a bend around Shepherd as it enters the freeway from an underpass on the left side. This is, needless to say, confusing and off-putting to drivers. Since drivers from Shepherd enter the freeway in the fast lane, it causes routine delays. Whoever decided this was a smart way to design a feeder ramp clearly doesn't drive that way every day.
HOV Lane. The main problem with all HOV lanes is that they end in places that aren't always convenient. In this case, West Road, just a couple miles north, making the HOV a pretty good option in this instance.
Hardy Toll Road. It will be out of the way for you if you are coming from downtown or the west side, but it does move pretty quickly...for a fee. If you are coming from way on the west side, take the Beltway. If you are well east, you should probably be on the Eastex Freeway anyway.
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More Adventurous Alternatives:
Veteran's Memorial Drive. It connects with North Shepherd right at the North Freeway and parallels the freeway all the way out to Spring. It runs along the northern edge of Acres Homes, so you could stop off for barbecue. It can get a little crowded near 249 and the Beltway, but otherwise it is fairly smooth sailing.
Airline Drive. I runs semi-parallel to the freeway and is loaded with awesome flea markets and funky places to stop. It won't be the fastest route, but it will have the most interesting scenery.
Have a favorite (or least favorite) traffic hotspot? Drop a note in the comments.