When I recently asked people to give me their worst roads in Houston, I knew what I would be in for. Having already discussed the matter with others at the Press as well as friends and acquaintances, I could guess what people would say. The truth is, there are a ton of roads in Houston at the moment (some perpetually) that feel more like dirt roads in the country than paved roads in the heart of the city. Of course, this is nearly always changing and getting a picture of what is going on right this moment seemed prudent.
There were a couple criteria that went into the decision-making process. Anything that was under construction with the aim of improving the existing problems was off limits. No sense in complaining about something that is being fixed. Also, no freeways. They are their own special brand of hell. This is all about the side streets. Finally, nothing downtown. With the nearly perpetual construction going on in and around our city skyscrapers, it was pointless to even try and document that nonsense.
What became evident when studying problems is that nearly every road in question had two things in common. First, they were all heavily trafficked roads. These weren't just randomly neglected stretches, long forgotten by the city and county. These were busy thoroughfares making the problem even more acute. Second, they were all streets nearly impossible to repair because of a combination of the high traffic volume and the narrow size of the street. Working on the streets would practically mean closing them down creating serious traffic nightmares.
As a result, we might be stuck with some of these nightmares for a while.
I have the misfortune of driving this nearly every day and I have driven on it for many years. In high school, I had friends with big cars with cream-puff suspension who would enjoy driving fast northbound on TC Jester in the righthand lane because the giant dips made from roads intersecting it would nearly send them airborne. Those conditions still exist, but they are worse now. And for some crazy reason, parking is allowed in the righthand lane of southbound side near the dog park. It becomes a choice of hitting a parked car or a massive pothole. It's not always a clear cut decision.
This tiny little back road in north Houston on the outskirts of the airport is still a popular alternate route for area residents to avoid traffic on the North Freeway and Greens Road. Unfortunately, it looks like Mad Max movie was filmed here. I used to live on this side of town as a kid and it was bad at that time. That was 30 years ago.
This is the first of what you will undoubtedly notice is a pattern of really awful east-west roads through the Montrose area. This is the shortest stretch of the bunch, but certainly one of the worst. With four lanes, you'd think the city could close parts of it down for a week to re-pave, but so far, no such luck. Better option would be to take Dallas to the north. Remarkably, it's not awful.
Surprising that a road in between West University and Bellaire would be so awful, but it most certainly is. Despite much of Holcombe to the east and Bellaire Boulevard (as it becomes named after Kirby Drive) to the west in good shape, this section is a nightmare.
I've never encountered slower drivers than those on Alabama between Weslayan and the Montrose. Fortunately, for a fairly long stretch west of Shepherd, the road is at least paved well. Not so once you get near Alabama Icehouse. Through an area with expensive homes and beautiful museums, it's like a patchwork road that is as ugly as the tree-lined neighborhoods are beautiful. Add the center switchback lane that runs in alternating directions during rush hours and it has all the makings of a traffic nightmare. 5. South Shepherd between West Gray and US 59
Much like other roads in the area, South Shepherd is extremely busy making it nearly impossible to shut down and repair well. It would also be difficult to expand it and widen the lanes thanks to businesses and the affluent River Oaks neighborhood along its path. But, it is still one of the quicker north-south routes between US 59 and Memorial. At some point, the city needs to bite the bullet and make traffic worse so it can eventually get better.
It's bad enough that this stretch of Westheimer has such narrow lanes. Between Taft and Montrose, you may as well consider this a two-lane road despite the painted white lines to the contrary. But, toss in a bumpy ride courtesy of a mess of a road and you have a recipe for side swipes. It is difficult to imagine shutting down Westheimer to repair this mess, but they are managing to do that to the section just west of Shepherd, so hope springs.
It's ironic that in such an affluent part of town there would be a road so hideous that most drive below posted speed limits. This rather short (thankfully) stretch of pavement near Rice University has fault lines and poorly-filled potholes covering it while neighborhood streets that cross it sit pristine and even.
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SHOW ME HOW
Better known as the University of Houston, it is a joke that the primary artery traversing our city's biggest college looks like the beaches of Normandy after allied forces landed on D-Day. Other streets in the area are awful as well, but nothing compares to this damaged and neglected stretch of road. Fortunately, with the light rail going in soon near the north end of campus, people can avoid Cullen altogether.
Recently, Senator John Cornyn, a staunch opponent of all things light rail, met with supporters at high-end restaurant Tony's in Greenway Plaza to declare light rail on Richmond dead. One of the plans had been to run a line down Richmond Avenue through Greenway Plaza and over to the Galleria. Area businesses and residents balked, but it is hard to understand why anyone would block the chance of fixing what is the most God-forsaken road in the entire city. I tried to narrow it down to a stretch, but the fact is, Richmond is a hideous, pothole-infested disaster area from Main Street to the Beltway. In fact, if you went farther east after it becomes Wheeler, you could start a whole new section. Why this mostly four-lane road hasn't been extensively repaired is beyond me, but it certainly qualifies as the worst in town.