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TX 288, the South Freeway

Last updated May 26, 2001

Also see: Downtown Houston photo gallery for images of the 288/US59 merge.

The South Freeway is Houston's most distinctive freeway because of its 400-foot-wide (122m) right-of-way and wide pastures for its median. Inside Loop 610 it is depressed below grade for nearly its entire length. The South Freeway is also relatively new, with its main section inside Loop 610 opening in 1984. I happened to be 17 years old in 1984, and the wide-open, congestion free South Freeway was a favorite spot for racing vehicles. However, HPD patrols soon put that to an end.

The South Freeway has 8 main lanes inside Loop 610 and discontinuous feeder roads. South of Loop 610, the freeway has 6 main lanes and no feeder roads. The lack of feeder roads is highly unusual for Houston.

288South of Loop 610, the south freeway corridor is still largely undeveloped. However, development is slowly starting to become more prevalent in this corridor due to the relatively quick commute time to downtown Houston and cheap land prices.

No major construction is planned for 288. The facility is built to full freeway standards to about 3 miles south of Beltway 8. In the future, the full freeway will be expanded southward one intersection at a time. Also, feeder roads will probably be added. In 1999, a major investment study including the 288/59 merge was initiated. This study was suspended in March 2000, and is expected to resume sometime in the second half of 2001.

The Houston Chronicle profiled the South Freeway in an 11-July-99 article.

The wide right-of-way and median for the south freeway were certainly influenced by a recommended design for freeways that appeared in the 1971 area transportation plan. The recommended design was an incredible 550 feet (168m) wide. It included a 170 ft (52m) wide central section that was reserved for future bus or rail transit.

1971 freeway section
To view the full image along with the informational text, click here. (118k)

Freeway History

1952

The South Freeway is included in Houston's original 1952 freeway plan. Its alignment is along Almeda Road.

1959

The 1959 Plan for Major Thoroughfares and Freeways shows the South Freeway alignment along Almeda Road and to the west of Almeda Road from just north of Loop 610 to just south of Beltway 8. (See map below.)

1960's

At some point in the 1960's, the as-built alignment of the South Freeway was defined, which is entirely on new location to the east of Almeda Road.

1971

A newsletter reports that construction on the northernmost part of 288 (at US 59) is underway. This is in conjunction with construction of the 288/59 merge.

1975 On September 22, 1975, a groundbreaking ceremony is held for the first section of freeway to be constructed between US59 and IH-610. The first contract included the North and South McGregor Street structures and frontage road bridges at Brays Bayou.
1977 The facility between 610 and the old 288 near Angleton, TX (about 30 miles south) is completed. It is not constructed to freeway standards.
1982 The four-level stack interchange at IH-610 is completed. It may not have been fully open to traffic, however.
1984 On September 5, 1984, the last freeway section inside Loop 610 is completed and opened after long delays.
1980's and 1990's South of 610, the facility is upgraded to freeway standards by adding grade separations. As of 2000, 288 was built to full freeway standards to about 3 miles south of Beltway 8.
2001 The freeway south of Loop 610 still traverses through largely undeveloped land. However, housing developments are slowly starting to appear along the 288 corridor.

1959 Alignment of the South Freeway

This alignment appears in the 1959 Major Thoroughfare and freeway plan.
Click for high resolution.

Photos start at the south and proceed northward to downtown

288 288
(High resolution 99 kB) Looking north along the south freeway corridor from the Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway overcrossing. Photo taken 23-May-2001.

288 288
(High resolution 204 kB) Looking north at the 4-level stack at IH-610 from just south of IH-610. Photo taken 23-May-2001.

288
Looking north along the south freeway corridor from one of the ramps at the 288/IH-610 4 level stack. The extra-wide right-of-way for this freeway is visible in this view. Photo taken December 22, 2000.

288 288
(High resolution 190 kB) Looking north from Yellowstone Street. Photo taken 23-May-2001.

288 288
A ground-level view of the freeway, looking north. Photo taken December 22, 2000.

288 288
Looking north towards the downtown Houston skyline. The South Freeway provides excellent views of downtown Houston. Photo taken September 2000.

 
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