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US59 (Southwest Freeway and Eastex Freeway)

Last updated August 2000

I-10 interchange, downtown
Shepherd to Mandell, just southwest of downtown Houston
See location map

US 59 has been under intensive construction since 1989, when the section of the Southwest freeway from Shepherd (a few miles southwest of downtown) to BW8 SW was widened. It took most of the 1990's to rebuilt the Eastex freeway from downtown to IAH. Current construction in progress focuses on the far southwest and northern segments, as well as a central segment. Starting from the southwest and going northward, current activity is summarized in the table below.

Location Cost $
(millions)
Start Finish Description
SH6 to US 90A 66.9 6/99 Q4/02 Expand to 8 main lanes with 6 lane feeders
at US90A 57.9 9/00 Q3/03 Build 3 level interchange with feeders below grade
at Kirkwood 29.0 10/97 Q4/00 Expand to 10 main lanes, 1 HOV, with 6 lane feeders
Shepherd to Mandell 32.5 9/99 Q4/02 Add 2 HOV lanes, replace bridges
At I10 126.7 7/97 Q4/02 Rebuild interchange, expand freeway, build distribution
system into downtown Houston
At BW8 35.4 11/99 Q4/02 Built BW8 main lanes and 1 connector ramp
South of FM1960 30.4 6/97 Q1/02 Expand to 8 main lanes, 1 HOV, with 6 lane feeders
North of FM1960 52.4 6/98 Q2/02 Expand to 8 main lanes, 1 HOV, with 6 lane feeders

I-10 Interchange

This is a major reconstruction of the US59/I10 interchange and expansion of US59 to provide a distribution system into downtown.

US59 South of I10
Photo taken June 2000, looking northward towards the 59/10 interchange. The existing US 59 facility is the second structure from the left. At the time of this photo, the southbound traffic had been diverted to a new structure (1st on left), and the northbound traffic was diverted to the old southbound lanes.

As the photo suggests, this is a major expansion. All the ramps are intended to distribute traffic onto the downtown streets. I took the photo from one of those new ramps. Not shown in this photo are the new direct connectors to I-10, which actually follow a path far away from the main freeways and cut through a warehouse district.


Shepherd to Mandell
This section of freeway is currently 10 lanes and depressed in a trench. The expansion project will widen the trench to add two new HOV lanes. This is definitely NOT a California-style HOV project (where HOV lanes are taken from the interior emergency lanes) !

The most interesting feature of this project is the four long-span arched bridges over the trench. The existing cast-in-place concrete spans with center supports are being removed and replaced with 217 ft (66m) long single spans. This will allow flexibility in the configuration of the 10 main lanes and 2 HOV lanes.

In 2001, a second $58 million contract will be let just east of the section currently under constrution. The existing elevated main lanes just will be demolished and the freeway will be placed in a trench. This will be a difficult construction project, which will likely cause severe traffic disruptions.

Originally, TxDOT planned to add a second elevated deck for HOV to the existing elevated freeway. The local neighborhood is high-income and very "inner loop" (read liberal and anti-freeway), so they wanted nothing of the second elevated deck. The next proposal was to make the existing deck wider to accomodate the HOV lanes. This was feasible, but right-of-way was severely constrained on the north side by a historic structure and on the south side by high voltage lines. The neighborhood still wasn't happy, because they really wanted to get rid of the elevated freeway. A leading candidate under consideration at that point was to put the freeway in a cut-and-cover tunnel. Fortunately, the cost eliminated that option. The final plan places 59 in a trench. There is talk of building a "signature" bridge where Montrose will cross the trench.

US 59 trench with existing bridge

Looking west, this is the freeway trench in June 2000 during a closure for bridge demolition. Four existing bridges are being replaced with single-span arched bridges. One of the old bridges is shown in this photo.

US 59 new arched brigde
June 2000 bridge installation at Mandell street, looking east.

US 59 new arched bridge
As of June 2000, two arched bridges were in place. There will be a total of four in this project. The next project to be let in 2001 will add two more arched bridges. This view is towards the west.

US59 elevated
This photo was taken in August 2000 during the freeway closure for the installation of the last of the four arched bridges. This view looks west.

US59 elevated
This is the existing 10 lane elevated freeway that will demolished and placed in a trench. Tentative project letting is 2001 for this $58 million project.

US59 Montrose overpass
This is the existing bridge at Montrose Blvd. Montrose is the main roadway to and through the Museum District, and neighborhood interests considered the overpass to be a detriment to the Museum District gateway. The freeway will be placed in a trench, and there is talk of building a "signature" bridge over the trench.

 
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