Should the light at the end of this tunnel be a green one?
Houstonians are no strangers to traffic; it is the price we pay for growth. However at times we wonder if the “one size fits all” solutions really evaluate the differences inherent from one city to another. For a city that pushes growth forward both inward and outward, the talk of construction on yet another roadway may make even the most die-hard commuters anti-growth. The folks at TxDOT have their sights on I45 between Downtown\Highway 59 and the Woodlands as Houston’s next major roadway project. Many Houstonians have their qualms with TxDOT as plans and projects appear to remain in a vacuum until the day of construction. For many the re-design of the I10 corridor left little in the way of transit alternatives, and generated a costly and lengthy process of condemning prime real estate. As it stands now the boiler-plate plan that TxDOT is proposing to implement in Houston calls for doubling the width of I45 by adding shoulders and managed lanes. Commuters will encounter closed and converged roadways during the duration of this construction as is typical with projects of these sorts. To say that one might resolve the fate of their commute to TxDOT’s blueprint rooms would be a rational idea, if not for the fact that a proposed alternative exists. Ironically TxDOT's Dallas District is actually proposing a 2.5-mile tunnel in north Dallas, yet such a proposal for Houston was not de rigueur. Irregardless of what occurs in Dallas, a group of Houstonians has sought to bring a tunnel concept to Houston’s roadways and have heralding its benefits to the Houston area.
Research and inquires into the alternate proposal found its design and solutions to be a very formidable alternative. The author is seeking a feasibility study to examine the details necessary for construction. I contacted the plan’s author Gonzalo Camacho, of Camacho & Associates to answer questions that many commuters and residents might have about TxDOT’s plans and his proposed alternative.
DH: What is your background both as a Houstonian and transportation engineer?
GC: I received my B.S. in Civil Engineering and M.S. in transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington and have practiced transportation/traffic engineering for over 12 years, mostly in Houston except a short time period while working on the Dallas light rail program.
DH: The proposal as I understand calls for routing traffic under the existing roadway by means of a tunnel. Would the construction of the proposed tunnel close sections of I45, or would these tunnels be constructed under the live roadway?
GC: The reason why we are asking to do the feasibility study is to determine some of these details. However, most of the construction will be conducted below ground. Surface construction will occur where construction needs access to the tunnel, normally at the beginning or end of the tunnel. Where most of the disturbance of existing traffic will occur is when connecting the roadway tunnels to existing highway lanes. Potential locations may include direct connectors at Beltway 8, Loop 610, I-10 and US-59 but this is assuming that TxDOT will tunnel the 15 miles connecting Beltway 8 to US-59. I45 Houston Tunnel continued