Last updated May 26, 2001
Downtown Houston photo gallery for images of the 288/US59 merge.
TX 288, the South Freeway
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.
South 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
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
The wide right-of-way and median for the south freeway were certainly influenced by a recommended
design for freeways that appeared in the
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.
To view the full image along with the informational text, click
The South Freeway is included in Houston's original 1952 freeway plan. Its alignment is along Almeda Road.
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.)
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.
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.
||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.|
||The facility between 610 and the old 288 near Angleton, TX
(about 30 miles south) is completed. It is not
constructed to freeway standards.|
||The four-level stack interchange at IH-610 is completed. It may not have been fully open to traffic, however.|
||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.|
||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
(High resolution 99 kB) Looking north along the south freeway corridor from the Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway overcrossing. Photo taken
(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.
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.
(High resolution 190 kB) Looking north from Yellowstone Street. Photo taken 23-May-2001.
A ground-level view of the freeway, looking north. Photo taken December 22, 2000.
Looking north towards the downtown Houston skyline. The South Freeway provides excellent views of downtown
Houston. Photo taken September 2000.