HOUSTON CHRONICLE: U.S. 290 expected to be complete by 2018

(via the Houston Chronicle)

U.S. Highway 290 has been under construction for years and drivers have been idling through for five years with the promise of a wider road and easier trips in and out of the city.

Recently, State Reps. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) and Mike Schofield (R-Katy) gave an update on redevelopment of U.S. Highway 290 and the nearly completed I-610/U.S. 290 interchange.

Construction will continue through the fall and into 2017, and 290 is on track for completion in 2018, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The current interim plan from the 610 Loop along 290 out to the Grand Parkway will be completed at a cost of $1.27 billion.

"Everyone can relate to how utterly frustrating it can be to be stuck in traffic when you're simply trying to get from Point A to Point B, especially along 290," Bohac said in a news release. "But I am pleased to report that substantial progress in being made and the end is in sight. We now have some real relief with the virtual completion of the 290/610 interchange - which is more than 85 percent finished - and the soon-to-be completed projects along the entire stretch of U.S. 290 in Harris County."

Schofield lauded the nearing completion of the highway.

"The completion of the 290 widening will make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people in our area who have been stuck in traffic every day for years." Schofield added. "U.S. 290 will always be crowded, but we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel to a day when the commute to and from work will be a lot more reasonable and a lot less stressful."

Construction began on the Highway 290 Project in June of 2011 with the I-610/U.S. 290 interchange and has extended to 13 program projects along the 38-mile stretch from the 610 Loop to the Harris/Waller County Line. When finished the U.S. 290 roadway will feature five lanes in both directions between I-610 and State Highway 6/FM 1960, four lanes in both directions between SH 6/FM 1960 and SH 99 (Grand Parkway), and three lanes in both directions between SH 99 and the Harris/Waller County line. Further, there will be a barrier separated, reversible High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane between I-610 and SH 99.

Additionally, installation of Next Generation Concrete Surface "quiet pavement" is being applied to all U.S. 290 projects. This noise mitigation technique places longitudinal grooves in the concrete pavement, which minimizes the amount of tire/pavement noise.

TxDOT's ultimate vision for the U.S. 290 Corridor involves the construction of a parallel Hempstead Tollway from Loop 610 to Grand Parkway. Due to current funding conditions, that roadway will not likely be built for 20 years.

The estimated cost of the entire U.S. 290 Program improvements, including construction of the Hempstead Tollway, is $4.7 billion. That includes funding for design, engineering, construction, right of way acquisition and utility relocations. With regard to the Hempstead Tollway, it does not include the cost of designing and constructing the High Capacity Transit Corridor for which they are reserving space.

The reconstruction of U.S. 290 is essential due to the exploding rates of growth in the Houston region. The City of Houston is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States and the largest in Texas. With regional growth-rate predictions at approximately 72 percent between the years 2010 and 2040, traffic congestion and transportation-related problems will follow.

Without substantial changes, the current regional transportation network will be unable to provide an acceptable level of service on many travel corridors. In particular, the U.S. 290 Corridor has experienced considerable growth. With the current corridor population at 698,000 and a projected 2040 population of 1.1 million, this corridor is facing serious transportation issues.

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