TxDOT receives funding for expansion on U.S. 290
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 03:10
Road trips to Austin could be a lot less stressful in the future thanks to a new expansion project on U.S. Highway 290 in Houston.
According to Texas Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Karen Othon, a project to expand U.S. 290 has been in the works since the late 1990s but has recently been put on the fast track thanks to increased funding.
“We were able to accelerate the construction schedule for this project thanks to increased funding from our partnership with the Harris County Toll Road Authority,” Othon said. “[U.S.] 290 is a priority because there has been a lot of population growth in the Northwest part of Harris County. As the population grows, there are more motorists on the freeway.”
Othon said the population along the U.S. 290 corridor between Interstate Highway 610 in Houston and Farm-to-Market Road 2920 near Tomball is expected to grow from approximately 543,000 people today to 888,000 people by 2035. Othon said U.S. 290, which stretches northwest from Houston toward Austin, is currently one of the 20 most congested roadways in Texas.
A TxDOT fact sheet outlines the proposed changes for a 38-mile stretch of U.S. 290 in Harris County, including widening of the freeway from three-to-four lanes to five-to-six lanes and the addition of auxiliary lanes for high-occupancy vehicles and tolled traffic. Most of the construction will begin in mid-2014, with a target completion date of 2016.
Othon also said there was potential for a bicycle greenway and even a light-rail corridor.
“We made presentations to many stakeholders and neighborhood groups, and those are the things that people were asking for,” Othon said. “Our approach is multi-modal, so there are provisions made in the ultimate plan, like the 50 feet of the corridor that are reserved for the possibility of light rail. The Gulf Coast Rail district has done a study that basically says, ‘if you build it, they will come.’”
Brown College junior Alison Moscoso said she takes U.S. 290 frequently from Rice to her home in Jersey Village, a Houston suburb.
“The traffic is really bad,” Moscoso said. “It usually takes me about 25 minutes to get home, but if the traffic is heavy, then it can take more than an hour.”
Moscoso said she is glad to hear that work is underway on the freeway expansion to relieve traffic problems but that she is even more supportive of the plans for a possible light-rail corridor.
“My town was talking about all of the different ways that a new light rail could benefit commuters, and I completely agree,” Moscoso said. “Instead of continuing to build more and more freeways, I think that Houston should really invest in more viable public transportation options.”