In February, I wrote about what I considered to be the three worst freeway interchanges in Houston. One of them, the 290/North Loop/Interstate 10 mangle that came in third, is undergoing extensive renovations slated to be completed in January as part of the larger project to widen and improve Highway 290 out to the Grand Parkway. Now, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle, the number one worst interchange on the list is about to be given a two-year, multimillion-dollar makeover.
The Texas Department of Transportation has decided to change the way traffic merges onto Highway 59 from Interstate 45 South as it moves north into downtown, creating elevated lanes parallel to the existing raised stretch of road that deposits drivers in downtown. The project is meant to ease the awful traffic that occurs when drivers, unclear about how or where to be so they can merge onto 59, weave all over the road.
It is certainly a serious problem, but will the change make a substantial difference to the entire interchange?
What makes this particular interchange so complicated is that it merges three freeways in a ridiculously short amount of road. While the bottleneck coming up 45 from the south is brutal -- with the added bonus of University of Houston and TSU traffic to boot -- the absolute worst of it is where 288 and 59 come together in both directions. The number of merges required just to get from one of them to the other is insane and that's when there isn't traffic, which, of course, there always is.
The real problem is that the entire interchange from 59 at the Spur to the Pierce Elevated is about as poorly designed as it is confusing. Certainly, fixing this one tiny segment will help, but it is going to take more than a fresh coat of paint to repair this eyesore of a highway interchange.