Houston Traffic Hotspots: The Clear Lake Narrows

Categories: Traffic

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Driving to Galveston? Pack a lunch.
In this series, I take a look at places around Houston to avoid during rush hour and offer some alternatives that might keep you from going road rage and killing somebody.

Anytime you need to make a trek out to Clear Lake, Kemah or Galveston, you are practically forced to endure the pain that is the narrowing of the freeway just south of Beltway 8 near Clear Lake. It brings traffic to a crawl, particularly during the summer months when every teenager and family of 10 gets on the road to the beach.

Location: Gulf Freeway at Dixie Farm Road
Direction: South/Outbound
Time of Day: Worst in Evening Rush and Weekends
Probable Destinations: Clear Lake City, Kemah, Galveston
Landmarks: Deserted prairie, a Mega Church


What's the holdup?

Right past Beltway 8, Interstate 45 South begins to narrow from four lanes down to three. As it does, traffic comes to a standstill virtually at all hours of the day and night. It is particularly bad during rush hour and because it is the preferred route to places like Kemah and Galveston, Saturday and Sunday can also be brutal.


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14 comments
Denise Coles Padget
Denise Coles Padget

Easiest way most of the time is to stay on I-45 south, but make sure you are in the 4th lane from the left (2nd from right I believe) from about Fuqua on (get over to that lane the moment things start backing up). Take the exit for Beltway 8 going east, and get off the first (free) exit. Go to the light at Genoa Red Bluff, turn right, go down to Space Center Blvd and turn right, then wind your way down to wherever you want to go in Clear Lake as it crosses all the main roads that are exits in the backed-up area (just hang a right to head back towards I-45) and ends at NASA Parkway, which is convenient to go right to Seabrook, Kemah, 146, etc. or left to head onto the NASA bypass and back to I-45 past all the backup.

Hugh Bishop
Hugh Bishop

I'm so old, I can remember when Clear Lake wasn't Houston!

Michael Terry
Michael Terry

225 or I-10 to 146 works well if coming from that side of town.

stefdancer528
stefdancer528

Don't give people our private routes!! Keep tourist on the freeway!

Emilia23
Emilia23

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tenmen
tenmen

the best alternative is not to go on I-45 south!!  Go someplace else!!! we don't need the traffic congestion !!

Melissa Fosburg
Melissa Fosburg

I've tried most of your suggested alt routes, and they aren't any better. Hwy 3 can be very slow, and all the stoplights are tedious. Going a bit out of your way to drive down 225 aka toxic hwy then through Pasadena where everybody drives super slow and more stoplights. Or we can take 288 to hwy 6 or surfside. Can we say more stoplights and not to mention miles out of the way. I think I'd better off sitting in traffic for 10 to 15 min rather than go to all the trouble of those alt routes. Can you tell I've done this before?

Lawrence Lamb
Lawrence Lamb

That merger needs to be extended another mile south, with an exit-only lane for Clear Lake Blvd.

jberlat1
jberlat1

Since 99% of people travel this every day, how about leaving space between cars so people can merge instead of being dbags and cutting them off, thus causing more traffic backup.

theonecalledjake
theonecalledjake

The expansion of Genoa-Red Bluff is great - when it was originally built, it was NOT meant to hold that much traffic and was a bad accident waiting to happen - there's a few roadside crosses to tell those stories, sadly.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

I use Genoa-Red Bluff  or Vista to Space Center Blvd on my treks to Clear Lake City. Now that Genoa Red Bluff has been widened just past the Beltway, the drive is much better. As for any treks to Galvestion, I go down Highway 146. Sure, there are traffic signals and speed traps, but it beats trying to navigate the bottleneck on I-45.

I make very infrequent trips to Baybrook Mall because of all that traffic on the Gulf Freeway. Talk about packing a lunch, some days you need to just getting out of the parking lots. Using Bay Area Boulevard as an alternate is not a good idea, that road is always clogged. Exiting El Dorado and running the feeder road is  a bit better, but not by much.

matx
matx

@jberlat1 Not only is this what I learned in drivers ed, they still teach it that way (even in Texas, since my son just went through it), it would be safer.  Therefore it just won't happen.  Houston gets a bad rap for driving habits, but it wasn't always that way.  I moved here over 20 years ago, and I was shocked at how polite and accommodating drivers were to merging cars or lane changes. 

cawingcrow
cawingcrow

Using the street that runs beside Target and up to El Dorado (forget the name, but it is the first light after the Walmart) to come and go to the mall saves a lot of aggravation. 

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