Vehicle Fire Effing Up 59 South

Categories: Traffic

Photo by Eric Thomas
We hope everyone's OK.
An accident that caused a vehicle is jamming up 59 South at Chimney Rock, according to Houston TranStar.

The vehicle on fire is an 18-wheeler, KTRK reports, adding that "all lanes are closed at Chimney Rock, as firefighters are on the scene of the truck fire."

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Cover Story: Trapped in Houston's Traffic Nightmare

Not an exaggeration.
If you are under 40 and live inside the 610 Loop, where many young professionals have moved in the last 10 years and continue to do so with the kind of frenzied pace normally reserved for the Loop itself, your solutions to traffic are probably quite different than if you live in Clear Lake.

When asked, most inner loopers will tell you that an expanded rail service, more hike and bike paths, better sidewalks and street repairs to some of our worst roads should be at the top of the list. Ask a suburban dweller and the answer is probably wider freeways, more Park and Ride options and better HOV lanes. Both ignore those forced to use public transportation every day in a city built by people who value their vehicles like they value their own lives.

But, at least we can agree on one thing: Houston traffic sucks.

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The Three Worst Houston Freeway Interchanges

Categories: Traffic

Photo by TexasDarkHorse via Flickr
Welcome to one of Houston's three circles of traffic hell.
Last week when I wrote about the most treacherous on ramps to freeways, many of you suggested connections between freeways as possible additions. Since I was sticking with entrances from side streets, I skipped out on freeway interchanges, but there are three in particular that are such a mess, they deserve some attention.

At times, it feels as if our freeway system is just a massive tangle of concrete with little rhyme or reason. But little compares to where these arteries meet. I often wonder if the architect of these connections was inspired by an M.C. Escher painting, the design of roller coasters (ever exited Interstate 10 to the Beltway and felt as if you were 100 stories in the air?) or maybe he was just insane. Whatever the case, we are left with some of the most ridiculous and confusing interchanges in some of the city's most heavily trafficked areas.

There are certainly plenty of good examples of this spread out all over the city. But these three are the absolutely worst, a mixture of poor design and heavy use.

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Where the Streets Have New Names: 20 Houston Streets That Change Names

If only it were that easy, but this is Houston.
It's tough enough to get around in Houston with traffic, accidents and the messy spider web of freeways. If you just moved here, you're probably having a difficult enough time figuring out the difference between the Southwest Freeway and U.S. 59 (hint: there is none, but more on that later) and then one day you are driving along minding your own business when the street you are on suddenly has a different name. You can't figure out what you did. You didn't turn. Don't feel bad. You're not crazy. The streets are.

That's because there are numerous major roads in our fair city that change names with no warning. Weird, right? Even those of us who have lived here for years are still surprised to find out we are lost thanks to a street that went from one name to another for seemingly no reason.

Now, before we get to this list, a couple notes:
This list does not include directional streets. So, while it may be weird that there is a North Shepherd and a South Shepherd or, worse yet, a variety of Main Streets around town, that's not what we're talking about. Also, this is not about divided roads. The fact that, for a stretch, North Shepherd splits into Shepherd (moving northbound) and Durham (going south) is unsettling, but not technically a name change.

Finally, there are nearly as many streets that end through a merge with another thoroughfare as there are ones that change names, but as confusing as it may be that 20th crosses North Main onto Cavalcade or Washington Avenue divides into three streets as it passes under I 45 into downtown, it just ends, it doesn't change.

Now, with that out of the way, let's do this.

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HPD Warns Pedestrians About Deadly Stretch of Bellaire Boulevard

Thumbnail image for Bellaireblvd.JPG
Google Maps
Deadly stretch of Bellaire Boulevard.
Let's face it, Houston's not a walking city, but that's still no reason that pedestrian deaths should be more than double what they were last year.

Three people have been killed within about a month, all on a five-block area of Bellaire Boulevard. A 40-year-old man was struck and killed in a hit-and-run near a construction zone early Saturday morning. Cops said the man was at fault and didn't use a crosswalk.

Here's a recap of other pedestrian deaths police want you to be aware of: On Jan. 15, around 10 a.m a 79-year-old man was crossing near the 9200 block of Bellaire Blvd. and was struck and killed. The driver did his duty and tried to help at the scene and was found not to be at fault. On Feb. 9, a a driver in a Toyota allegedly hit a 28-year-old man around 4:45 a.m., killing him. The driver fled the scene.

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Houston's 10 Most Treacherous Freeway Entrance Ramps

Categories: Traffic

Google Maps
They are kidding with that stop light, right?
When discussing Houston traffic, it is unfair to compare the city with more compact places around the country. We are spread out, more like LA than Chicago. That means freeways and lots of them.

Unlike places in the northeast, the vast majority of these multi-lane deathtraps are not toll roads;meaning lots of places to get on and off, but not always with ease. In fact, there are some entrance ramps to freeways around Houston so complicated and dangerous, it's a wonder they were built in the first place. The problem is worse when those entering the freeway decide to do so like they were driving through a school zone.

In order to determine the worst, I narrowed it down by excluding freeway-to-freeway interchanges. Those offer their own brand of hell. I also eliminated exit ramps. Most of us are just thrilled to be getting off the freeway in the first place, and getting on means accelerating at a sometimes breakneck speed. If you think we've missed any, please let us know in the comments.

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The 10 Worst Roads in Houston (Right Now)

Categories: Traffic

You better believe this made the list.
When I recently asked people to give me their worst roads in Houston, I knew what I would be in for. Having already discussed the matter with others at the Press as well as friends and acquaintances, I could guess what people would say. The truth is, there are a ton of roads in Houston at the moment (some perpetually) that feel more like dirt roads in the country than paved roads in the heart of the city. Of course, this is nearly always changing and getting a picture of what is going on right this moment seemed prudent.

There were a couple criteria that went into the decision-making process. Anything that was under construction with the aim of improving the existing problems was off limits. No sense in complaining about something that is being fixed. Also, no freeways. They are their own special brand of hell. This is all about the side streets. Finally, nothing downtown. With the nearly perpetual construction going on in and around our city skyscrapers, it was pointless to even try and document that nonsense.

What became evident when studying problems is that nearly every road in question had two things in common. First, they were all heavily trafficked roads. These weren't just randomly neglected stretches, long forgotten by the city and county. These were busy thoroughfares making the problem even more acute. Second, they were all streets nearly impossible to repair because of a combination of the high traffic volume and the narrow size of the street. Working on the streets would practically mean closing them down creating serious traffic nightmares.

As a result, we might be stuck with some of these nightmares for a while.

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Cycling Not a Two-Way Street in Houston

Categories: Traffic

Despite all the lanes and trails shown here, Houston is still a car city.
I learned how to ride a bike in the parking lot of the not-quite-completed Greenspoint Mall in the '70s. My first fall was when I couldn't figure out how to steer around a piece of debris and went sailing over my handlebars. Within a couple years I had graduated to a BMX-style bike and was happily riding the trails carved out by other trail riders along Greens Bayou before it was straightened and defoliated. For a kid, having a bike meant having a level of freedom he had never known before. In your mind, you could go anywhere just like an adult in a car.

But, even then I understood all too well the dangers of driving outside my neighborhood. Though I walked frequently to the mall to hit the arcade (yes, I'm old, shut up), I was forbidden from riding my bike there by my parents even though it was less than a mile from my house. The streets around the commercialized area felt like a war zone some days. It was the equivalent of the Dark Forest in Harry Potter novels. You heard the rumors, but didn't investigate.

Reading this morning about charges filed in the hit-and-run death of a woman riding her bike at night along Waugh Drive, I found myself legally ambivalent but morally appalled.

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Want Cheap Gas? Study Says Fill Up on the Weekends

Trending downward.
In what might be the most counterintuitive finding you'll hear this week, GasBuddy, a tech company that tracks gas prices across the U.S. for inclusion in its app, found that 65 percent of states saw lower average fuel prices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday than Monday through Thursday. Additionally, prices were found to be highest Tuesday and Wednesday.

Texas is among those states with lower prices on the weekend, according to GasBuddy. Since 2010 when they began doing this analysis, gas prices in Texas have been lower on Saturday or Sunday. This year is no different.

The question then becomes just how much difference there is between weekday prices and weekend prices? The answer: not all that much, at least in Houston.

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5 Lessons Learned from Snowpocalypse 2014

Categories: Traffic, Weather

Houston Transtar
Middle of the HOV lane might not be the safest spot to wait for a tow.
When I started putting this together, I had no idea Snowpocalypse 2014 Part Two was coming this week and might be worse than Part One. So, consider this advice you can use when the weather starts freaking out Tuesday.

The problem is that we Houstonians don't really know what to do when ice is on the road. In August, we waltz around outside like it's 70 degrees outside. But, the first little snow that falls, the whole damn city shuts down. Follow some simple rules, and we'll all survive the next Snowpocalypse, even if it comes Tuesday.

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