Even more freeway construction will arrive in Houston in 2022. This is where you will see the traffic cones.


Rushing to the green, Houston-area transportation officials have a whiteboard filled with freeway and transit projects slated to begin in 2022, but rolling out all that bitumen means drivers will see a lot more. orange cones and construction areas, leaving some feeling blue.

Construction spending by the Texas Department of Transportation is expected to exceed $ 2.2 billion for the Houston area in fiscal 2022, which began September 1, nearly double the 2021 total. The money is spread across the region, said James Koch, director of transportation planning and development for TxDOT in Houston, in a discussion with local transportation officials.

THE ROUTE TO FOLLOW: How Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Could Shape Houston’s Transportation Plans

“(2022) is going to be a really big year for our region, for entrepreneurs and so on,” Koch told members of the Houston-Galveston Council Transportation Advisory Committee on Dec. 9. “You will see a lot of barrels and cones. outside.”

Among the major projects slated for opening this year are new bridges crossing Texas 288 to remove many of the highway’s crossings and turn more of it into a freeway-like shape. On five different projects, TxDOT completed $ 135.6 million of work on Brazoria County viaducts, as well as a planned $ 70.9 million Texas widening.

Various other projects are also planned around the area, in particular:

  • Widening the Texas 99, the free portion of the Grand Parkway in Fort Bend County, from FM 1093 to Harris County, at an estimated cost of $ 59 million.
  • Extension FM 723 in Fort Bend County from the Brazos River to FM 1093.
  • Build the first 2.2 miles of a planned rebuild of the Texas 35 to connect to Spur 5 near the University of Houston, at an expected cost of $ 77 million.
  • Widening of Texas 105 between Loop 336 at Conroe and FM 1484 for an estimated $ 78.4 million.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, meanwhile, will continue to build smaller improvements included in the agency’s long-term plan, such as making all bus shelters accessible and targeted repairs to streets along some key routes, including including Westheimer inside and outside of Loop 610.

These new cones add to the work along the busiest highways in the region. Workers are still months away from completing reconstruction of the Interstate 69 interchange and Loop 610 near The Galleria, which will have a larger effect on traffic as crews prepare for demolish the main tracks of Loop 610 spanning I-69 in the coming weeks.

Traffic slows down along Interstate 69 where it merges with Loop 610 at the Uptown area interchange on December 16, 2021, in Houston. The interchange has been under construction for four years.

Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Meanwhile, other crews are widening Interstate 10 from Brookshire to Sealy and Interstate 45 south to Galveston from League City.

“I feel like wherever you drive there’s construction going on,” said Luc Baricevic, 44, who moved to Houston in 2018. “It’s always been like that to me.

Houston’s growth over the past 20 years has led to constant construction, and many more are underway. Each highway in the region has a planned expansion that is envisioned in the region’s long-term plan.

Funding for the projects comes from a variety of sources, including additional spending by state voters set aside as early as 2014. Together, state officials said that Proposition 1 adopted in 2014 and Proposition 7, adopted in 2015 , transferred $ 19.88 billion from another state. motorway expenses, aimed at decongesting without toll.

The upcoming construction, meanwhile, does not reflect the work spurred by the recently approved federal infrastructure bill. The federal framework, which continues many of the same methods of funding highways and public transportation, is likely to launch a litany of other projects, officials said. Tapping into those federal dollars, however, will mean that, as drivers see more construction zones, local and state officials – as well as the engineering and planning firms they hire – will prepare for even more. of work.

Much of that work is already slated for Metro, which received voter approval for $ 7.5 billion in new projects and upgrades in 2019, weeks before COVID changed travel patterns in the region. world. Since then, Metro officials have prepared for the continuation of many projects, with some of the early work likely to be unveiled this year.

Metro will likely choose a preferred route and potential station locations for a planned bus route along Interstate 10 over the next two or three months, allowing transit officials to line up for federal money. transport by mid-2022 as they continue to design.

The project is the backbone of Metro’s expansion of rapid transit from the city center west to Uptown, which is crucial for park-and-ride service in the western and northwestern parts of Harris County, said officials. responsible.

“The benefits extend beyond those seven miles,” said Amma Cobbinah, senior transit planner at Metro overseeing the project, noting how the tracks connect downtown to the Northwest Transit Center on I-10. and Loop 610, a major stop for the park and buses. .

After the transit hub, these commuter routes crawl along I-10 with car and truck traffic to and from downtown, making them much less efficient and punctual.

Provided the project stays on track, officials said they hoped to start construction by the end of 2023 and start service in 2027.

Work on the so-called Inner Katy is just one of two major bus rapid transit projects that Metro is pushing forward in 2022. In December, transit officials unveiled an online open house describing plans for the University Corridor Project, a planned 25-mile BRT line. from the Tidwell Transit Center north to Kashmere Gardens, south through Fifth Ward and Eastside. The line then turns west through Third Ward and Midtown, then through Greenway Plaza and south of Uptown where it connects to the Silver Line which runs alongside Post Oak.

Ultimately, the university corridor will connect to Westchase Park and Ride near Westpark and Beltway 8.

Likely being built in five phases through 19 Houston area zip codes, this is the largest rapid route Metro is considering. Construction on the line is not expected to begin until 2025, although Metro officials have said dozens of public meetings will be held as the project progresses, some likely in 2022.

dug.begley@chron.com