BACKGROUND -- HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people travel up and down US 290 between I-610 and the Harris/Waller County line. In the future, thousands more will join in that traffic flow because the population growth rate of the Houston region is exploding.
In fact, it is growing so fast that the population is expected to increase by approximately 72 percent between the years 2010 and 2040. For the US 290 corridor section between I-610 to near the Harris/Waller County line, the current population of about 698,000 is projected to expand to 1.1 million in that time frame.
With that kind of rapid growth, there will obviously be many more people driving beside you each day. And, with that, comes additional problems. If the corridor remained the same as it is today, that would mean you and countless other US 290 motorists would experience significant amounts of traffic congestion and other aggravating transportation-related headaches. That's why we're already looking ahead to fix those problems for you.
The US 290 Program, which entails reconstruction of US 290 and construction of the parallel Hempstead Tollway, covers a corridor of varying width that is approximately 38 miles long, extending from the interchange area of I-10/I-610/US 290 northwest to near the Harris/Waller County line. In August 2010 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the program's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which included the plan to build both roadways.
But due to funding challenges, that ultimate concept is not currently feasible. However, TxDOT wanted to make what US 290 improvements it could as soon as possible, and in June 2011 construction began at the I-610/US 290 interchange. As of early 2017 work is occurring on all 13 projects from I-610 up to the Harris/Waller County line. TxDOT and the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) had a Memorandum of Understanding for a US 290 interim configuration that consisted of a two to three-lane reversible facility and one additional general purpose lane in each direction from I-610 to SH 99 (Grand Parkway). Resources and agency responsibility have been reallocated and the recommended US 290 interim configuration has changed. HCTRA funding is no longer available, and Harris County is providing $200 million. This meant TxDOT had to modify the previously-recommended US 290 interim configuration to reduce its overall cost. Given this situation, TxDOT sought to provide more interim improvements that could be incorporated into the long term plan for US 290. In addition, various engineering-related design issues -- and the increased construction costs associated with those issues -- prevents the department from constructing a three-lane reversible facility that would fit within the existing US 290 corridor and still comply with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines and TxDOT safety requirements.
TxDOT is proposing a design for the initial US 290 construction phase which includes one additional general purpose lane in each direction from I-610 to SH 6, with a one-lane reversible High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)/Toll lane in the center of US 290 from I-610 to SH 99 (Grand Parkway). During the current construction, the HOV/Toll lane between Beltway 8 and I-610 was narrowed and shifted to allow the contractors to set up safe work zones on the original outbound US 290 mainlane pavement for construction of the new outbound US 290 mainlane bridges. Once construction is completed, the new reversible HOV/Toll lane will have shoulders and be wide enough for a vehicle to safely pass a stalled vehicle in the lane. The US 290 interim configuration does not impact the ongoing construction as it will be constructed within the right of way that has been environmentally cleared.
Benefits to carpoolers and buses currently using US 290 include an extension of the existing reversible lane to the Grand Parkway. Access to the reversible facility will be from direct connection ramps from the Northwest Transit Center, West Little York Park and Ride, Northwest Station Park and Ride and slip ramps to serve the Skinner Park and Ride. TxDOT is currently working with the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) to identify other potential transit-related improvements to US 290.
These proposed improvements are part of TxDOT's long-range vision for the US 290 corridor, which also includes construction of the Hempstead Tollway from I-610 to SH 99 (Grand Parkway) with two lanes in each direction, and a 50-foot reserve for future high-capacity transit. The interim configuration allows TxDOT to maintain access for carpoolers and transit on an HOV/Toll lane until the Hempstead Tollway is built. The ultimate plan is to move the HOV/Toll lane from US 290 to the Hempstead Tollway once the latter is operational.
TxDOT held public meetings regarding this proposed revised lane configuration on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at the Berry Center in Cypress, and on Thursday, September 3, 2015 at the Sheraton Brookhollow hotel at the I-610/US 290 interchange. Click here to view materials shown at those public meetings.
Below is a summary of the overall US 290 Program vision.
The overall vision for the US 290 Program includes: