ZOMG! 290 Southbound is Open to Five Lanes!!!

This is not a hoax. The opening of five lanes of 290 is real, you guys!
This is not a hoax. The opening of five lanes of 290 is real, you guys! Photo by Jeff Balke
Late Saturday night, something wondrous and unexpected occurred. After all the lanes of U.S. 290 from just north of Pinemont Drive had been closed for the entire day creating the typical sinking feeling we've all had about this much maligned Houston highway over the past seven years, it re-opened, but something was different.

It wasn't until Sunday morning, when I checked Google Maps and saw that it had indeed reopened that I was able to get onto it once again, dreading the drive ahead (despite it being Sunday morning), only to realize all five lanes of 290 going south were open for the first time, well, ever!

Gone were the entrance ramps of death that forced cars to merge with speeding traffic over a stretch of about 50 feet. Gone were the terrifying concrete barriers and radically shrunken lanes that made driving next to an 18 wheeler feel like a scene from Death Race 2000. It was like that scene from Seinfeld when Kramer turned his stretch of Adopt-a-Highway into two lanes instead of three and Elaine found driving on it "luxurious."

Granted, the northbound lanes were still cramped and terrifying, but it was as if I got a glimpse into the future of this beleaguered stretch of Houston freeway and it was glorious.

It should be noted that portions of 290 north of Pinemont, particularly up around the Beltway interchange, have been widened for several months now, but seeing this stretch from 43rd to 610 made the whole idea of an actually finished 290 seem real. There will no doubt still be bumps in the road, so to speak, but it finally feels like we can see the light at the end of a very long and tiring tunnel and, for once, it's not just an oncoming train.
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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