When discussing Houston traffic, it is unfair to compare the city with more compact places around the country. We are spread out, more like LA than Chicago. That means freeways and lots of them.
Unlike places in the northeast, the vast majority of these multi-lane deathtraps are not toll roads;meaning lots of places to get on and off, but not always with ease. In fact, there are some entrance ramps to freeways around Houston so complicated and dangerous, it's a wonder they were built in the first place. The problem is worse when those entering the freeway decide to do so like they were driving through a school zone.
In order to determine the worst, I narrowed it down by excluding freeway-to-freeway interchanges. Those offer their own brand of hell. I also eliminated exit ramps. Most of us are just thrilled to be getting off the freeway in the first place, and getting on means accelerating at a sometimes breakneck speed. If you think we've missed any, please let us know in the comments.
10. I-45 northbound from El Dorado
The Clear Lake "narrows," as I've written about before, offers its own special brand of traffic torture, but the real danger her lies in getting on the freeway. Really, you could take your pick between Bay Area Boulevard or El Dorado. The entrance ramps for both are awful as one lane serves for both getting on and off the freeway, a special nuance found at many exits around town.
9. I-10 westbound and eastbound from Taylor (tie)
Any freeway entrance that incorporates an incline is probably asking for trouble, especially in a mountain-challenged city like Houston. Both entrances are pitched slopes into the mess that is I-10. On the eastbound side you have the added bonus of navigating the I-45/I-10 interchange.
8. US 59 southbound from Weslayan
Yet another exit/entrance combo, this spot has the added benefit of being just south of one of the busiest freeway interchanges in the city at 610 and 59. Trying to avoid hitting people exiting at Newcastle -- thinking they can avoid Galleria traffic when they are really just plunging themselves deeper into it -- is difficult enough. Trying to weave across three lanes of freeway to get to 59's southbound lanes is a fool's errand. Suck it up and get on the Westpark Tollway.
7. 610 eastbound from Airline Drive
Much like No. 8 on our list, the entrance from Airline drive onto the North Loop is complicated by the proximity to the ramps leading to I-45 south. If you intend to try and skate all the way across to the North Freeway exit, you take your life and the lives of countless others in your hands. Take Airline all the way to 45 instead and the life you save might be mine.
6. I-45 southbound from Patton
Another descent into madness is exacerbated by a stop light (see photo above), an incredibly short distance to the freeway and no merge lane. I've seen cars sitting in the median holding up traffic on the ramp because they are terrified to try and enter the main lanes. And if that weren't enough, the entrance is a favorite of semi-truck drivers coming from the truck stop on Patton. 5. US 59 northbound from Chimney Rock
Whoever thought it was a good idea to put an entrance ramp smack dab in the middle of a freeway interchange wasn't having his best day on the job. This is certainly the worst example of that poor feat of engineering. It is a near impossibility to get from feeder road to 59 northbound most times and it only increases traffic in an already desperately clogged area.
4. US 59 southbound from Greenbriar
This is one of the few problem spots that has as much to do with the side street as it does with the feeder road or the ramp itself. Climbing the ramp to enter the freeway in the tangle of traffic near Kirby is bad enough, but there are two right turn lanes from Greenbriar onto the feeder road because engineers chose this spot to merge Greenbriar and Shepherd. Cars flying from the farthest left turn lane make it difficult for those in the right lane to get near the entrance ramp, let alone enter it.
3. I-45 southbound just before Dallas
This is the first of two entrances in this immediate area. Yet another decline onto a freeway with no merge lane is the feature here. Because it sends drivers careening into busy traffic heading for the Pierce Elevated, it is especially dangerous. The fact that it is always crowded with people means everyone drives it cautiously and slowly, the latter a recipe for disaster.
2. US 59 southbound from Spur 527
I imagine that an Indy car driver was the person who designed this concrete slingshot that banks like a bobsled course before sending drivers hurtling towards 59. It is an equal shock if you are on 59 going south and see cars flying in from your right at insane speeds. You can, if you know the area, get in the far right lane and give yourself more time to merge safely, but no one does. Instead, they live out some slalom course fantasies at the expense of everyone else.
1. I-45 southbound from Allen Parkway
There is no better place to look fear and death in the eye on Houston freeways than this roller coaster entrance onto I-45 just north of the Pierce Elevated. It is common to see a person sitting at the end of the twisting and turning ramp, dead stopped and praying to God for mercy after having chosen to take this route. It is equally as common to see a lunatic with a death wish rocket onto the freeway like he was fired out of a pistol. How this ramp continues to exist is a mystery to me and a constant terror to anyone who must use it or drive near it.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.