Why did US 290 need to be rebuilt?
The reconstruction of US 290 was essential due to the exploding rates of growth in the Houston region. The City of Houston is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States and the largest in Texas. With regional growth-rate predictions at approximately 72 percent between the years 2010 and 2040, traffic congestion and transportation-related problems will follow. The regional transportation network will be unable to provide an acceptable level of service on many travel corridors. In particular, the US 290 Corridor has experienced considerable growth. With the current corridor population at 698,000 and a projected 2040 population of 1.1 million, this corridor was facing serious transportation issues.
What was the overall vision in regard to reconstructing US 290?
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 spring 2019 US 290 mainlane construction is substantially complete, and the only portion of the mainlanes left to finish is the portion between SH 6/FM 1960 and Mason where crews are currently working. 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 building an initial US 290 construction phase which includes one additional general purpose lane in each direction from I-610 to SH 6/FM 1960, 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). Once construction is completed, the new HOV/Toll lane will have shoulders and be wide enough for a vehicle to safely pass a stalled vehicle in the lane.
Benefits to carpoolers and buses using US 290 include an extension of the existing reversible lane to SH 99. Access to the reversible facility will be from direct connector ramps from METRO’s Northwest Transit Center, West Little York Park and Ride, Northwest Station Park and Ride, and from a new ramp METRO is proposing to build from the Cypress Park and Ride at Skinner Road. TxDOT is also working with METRO on an additional US 290 HOV proposal, click here to read more about the Off-Peak HOV Lane Improvements.
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:
What has been the process to get US 290 reconstructed?
After several years of intensive research, numerous studies and extensive public involvement efforts, a Major Investment Study (MIS) determined that reconstructing the US 290/Hempstead Corridor is a worthwhile investment in the community's future.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) developed a preliminary map plan for the US 290/Hempstead Corridor as part of an environmental study process, executed by TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This environmental process led to the creation of the program's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which was made available in April 2010. The wait period for the FEIS document ended in May 2010. TxDOT addressed public comments received during the wait period and re-submitted the FEIS document to the FHWA prior to requesting consideration of a Record of Decision (ROD). This request was granted in August 2010.
That ROW allowed TxDOT to improve both US 290 and construct the parallel Hempstead Tollway. TxDOT ultimately plans to build Hempstead, but current funding conditions mean that ultimate plan 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. Program construction covers 38 miles, from I-610 to the Harris/Waller County line. The US 290 footprint as approved in the program’s FEIS will not change.
Is commuter rail part of the overall US 290 Program reconstruction plan?
It is, and the program's Major Investment Study (MIS) and traffic demand studies for this corridor indicate passenger rail in concert with managed toll lanes on Hempstead Tollway, five lanes in each direction on US 290 from I-610 to SH 6 and four lanes in each direction from SH 6 to SH 99/Grand Parkway are all needed for the projected traffic demand. The vision for the US 290 Program is multi-modal and TxDOT has identified a 50-foot reserve for high-capacity transit on the maps. There are also accommodations within the roadway border width (area between the frontage road and right-of-way line) for bike lanes along Hempstead.
What is the program’s overall cost?
The estimated cost of the ultimate US 290 Program improvements currently under construction is $2.5 billion. That includes funding for design, engineering, construction, right of way and utility relocation. The cost of the parallel Hempstead Corridor, for which there is currently no funding, is $2.4 billion. With regard to Hempstead, it does not include the cost of designing and constructing the High Capacity Transit Corridor for which we are reserving space.
When will all US 290 Program construction be completed?
TxDOT anticipates completing all mainlane construction, including final striping, in mid- 2020. The new SH 6/FM 1960 bridge is anticipated to be completed in late 2020.
How will I know about future roadway closures?
Information about detours and closures can be found by visiting www.houstontranstar.org.
You all said the mainlane construction was substantially complete in 2018, why are there still mainlane closures sometimes?
For the most part these closures are necessary to complete Next Generation Concrete Surface treatment and final striping operations.
Why does US 290 have one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, instead of two in each direction like the Katy Freeway has?
The US 290 Program’s ultimate plan is to have the HOV system moved to the parallel Hempstead Corridor. But since there is currently no funding for Hempstead, the HOV lane was preserved on US 290 in an interim configuration. Limited space only allowed for one lane.
What is the status of the Hempstead Corridor?
The Hempstead Corridor was approved for construction through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) approval of the US 290 Program’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). However, it currently has no funding.
What is the US 290 METRO Off-Peak HOV project?
This project includes the operation of an existing US 290 mainlane as an HOV lane during specific weekday travel times to provide transit between the Cypress Park and Ride near Skinner Road and the I-610/US 290 interchange. Paired with the US 290 barrier-separted HOV lane, the project provides routes for HOV traffic during peak travel hours. During all other times, the lanes would operate as general purpose lanes. The project would not change the total number of lanes along US 290 and no new right-of-way would be required. This project was put out for construction bid in 2020.
How can I share my concerns and views about the program?
Is there a place where I can view or obtain of maps or schematic designs?