Highway Construction Continuing to Cause Confusion, Especially at Night

Feel familiar? You're not alone, even if you are a night driver.
Feel familiar? You're not alone, even if you are a night driver. Photo by Jeff Turner/Flickr via CC
Most of us who get on the road during the day will do a quick check of traffic through an app or tune into a station that has traffic and weather a few times each hour. We don't want to get stuck in a traffic jam if we can at all avoid it. But, how many of us pull out the same app in the middle of the night?

In Houston, it might not be a bad idea.

With major construction occurring on stretches of multiple different freeway systems (some that will continue for the next decade), there are choices that have to be made. Sometimes, only a lane or two has to be closed. Other times, an exit or entrance will require closing for months. In the middle of that window is the temporary closure of a stretch of highway, something TxDot and its partners try to avoid in the middle of work days.

But, take a look at the Transtar road construction schedule and you'll see something commonplace: overnight closures.

Occasionally, a big enough project means an intersection will be shut down for an entire weekend. That's the case now most weekends with the Southwest Freeway and West Loop interchange, which is undergoing a massive overhaul. But, if you aren't careful and happen to be out in the evenings, you might find yourself caught in a snarl you weren't expecting.

Case in point this combination of overnight closures at the interchanges of I-10, Highway 290 (you thought that was done, right?) and the North Loop.

Overnight this weekend between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., the I-10 to 290 exit is closed forcing you onto the North Loop where they recommend you exit Ella and U-turn. That's enough of a pain until you realize that the exit to 290 from the West Loop is ALSO closed. So, everyone traveling from the West Loop or I-10 westbound will be stuck on a tiny feeder road and won't be able to get back onto 290 until Antoine, two exits from the interchange.

What makes matters more confusing is the recommendation for West Loopers is to exit T.C. Jester, which is the exit before 290. They better make sure the signage is good because if someone missing that, they will have to either go all the way to Woodway to exit and U-turn or to I-10 west and U-turn at Silber. Still weirder is if someone decides to take I-10 east after missing that exit, they will be back in the same mess again since the exit from I-10 to 290 detours them to the same spot on the West Loop.

Confused enough?

Now, imagine you are tired; it's late. You had a long shift or you just got done hanging out with your friends or having dinner and you just want to get home, but home is somewhere along or near 290. If you don't plan ahead, you're going to be screwed and depending on where you are coming from, you may just have to deal with a juggernaut of feeder road traffic in the middle of the night.

There's unfortunately no great solution either when it comes to fixing area roadways. It would be substantively worse if they closed them during the day when far more people are on the roads. But, we wonder if the planning around traffic so carefully doesn't create more frustrating situations for drivers who are forced to deal with it or, worse yet, delay completion of projects.

We have no answers. All we can tell you is avoid that intersection this weekend and be sure to check your traffic app no matter when you leave your house, day or night for the foreseeable future.
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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