Metro plan’s mix of transit, services a nod to differing Houston-area demands

Transit officials have a starting point for $7.5 billion in investments to Houston’s roads, bus systems and rail lines meant to move the region in a new direction — with the stated goal of moving some of those future commuters out of private automobiles.

What they ask voters to approve as a first step to smoother trips, however, is going to rely on how residents react to some of the specifics. Which projects get built first, or even listed, could depend on how support solidifies in many communities.

“What we get back from the community governs what we will ask for,” said Metro Chairwoman Carrin Patman.

Source: Metro plan’s mix of transit, services a nod to differing Houston-area demands – HoustonChronicle.com

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Last ride a fitting end for Bush funeral procession

Locomotive 4141 can pull 1 million pounds across most of America with ease, but its biggest job will be a 70-mile trip Thursday from Spring to College Station to take President George H.W. Bush to his last stop.

Bush, who died Friday, will be interred on the grounds of his presidential library in College Station on Thursday following services in Washington and Houston.

It is the historic trip he will take to his final resting place that is generating a lot public attention as a last-chance opportunity to honor Bush in a very Bush way.

“A train is special, and special to this president,” said David Jones, CEO of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

Source: Last ride a fitting end for Bush funeral procession – Houston Chronicle

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Out of Control: In Houston’s traffic carnage, design makes a difference

The tight curves of older freeway intersections such as Loop 610 and Interstate 69 northeast of downtown, for example, force motorists to lean on the brakes to avoid a barrier or railing. In the merge lanes along frontage roads parallel to Interstate 10, veteran drivers know that a speeding car could suddenly appear from any direction. Spots along Westheimer and FM 1960 have morphed into a string of shopping center entrances, crossed by streets pocked by potholes and sloppy asphalt patches that mimic motocross ramps.

Many of those design decisions, made decades ago, were aimed at reducing crashes, but some are adding to the severity of wrecks that still occur. Some think the design calculations need to get back to basics.

“I will trade a dented fender and wheel for a dented body,” said Gary Schatz, former deputy director of Austin’s transportation department, who’s now in private practice redesigning roads to improve safety.

Source: Out of Control: In Houston’s traffic carnage, design makes a difference – Houston Chronicle

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Out of Control: Houston’s roads, drivers are nation’s most deadly

“People think for some reason people dying on highways is natural,” said Jay Crossley, who as former executive director of Houston Tomorrow advocated for slower speeds and safer crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists. “It’s not. We remain dangerous because we are not fixing it.”

Above all, many drivers appear not to care. They ignore warnings to slow down and to put their phones away and pay attention to the road — in part because they don’t fear a penalty.

“I don’t know how the average Houstonian would worry about being pulled over,” said Houston Police Officers’ Union President Joe Gamaldi. “But chances are, because we are so short-staffed, we won’t be out there writing a lot of traffic tickets, we won’t have time to run radar all the time, because we’re too busy going call to call.”

There are plenty of ways to reduce deaths. But they are not politically or socially acceptable, researchers say, and without them people are dying.

Source: Out of Control: Houston’s roads, drivers are nation’s most deadly – Houston Chronicle

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Houston, highway builders have a lot riding on I-45 widening project

Birds flitting in and out of the grass and trees along this strip of marsh pay no heed to the roar from interstates 45 and 10 on the horizon, but to Houston Parks Board officials the sound is an ominous reminder of what could come.

Defenders of this long-sought “linear park” that leads from the Heights to downtown Houston now see a threat from the Texas Department of Transportation and its mammoth, once-in-a-generation project to relieve chronic congestion along I-45 and on the broader downtown highway system.

The project, already years in the making, reflects unprecedented levels of listening by TxDOT, which fairly or not has a reputation of building through communities rather than with them. Yet concerns linger over this pristine spot on White Oak Bayou, which TxDOT would crisscross with seven new spans under the current version of its ambitious plan to build Houston’s freeway of the future.“If that happens, the gateway to White Oak Bayou Greenway will be a freeway underpass,” said Chip Place, director of capital programs for the Houston Parks Board.

Source: Houston, highway builders have a lot riding on I-45 widening project – HoustonChronicle.com

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Bullet train sparks fight as old as Texas: Progress vs. tradition

William Shelton will not let go of the past, even if it is in the way of someone else’s future.

He has spent more than five years rebuilding his family’s ancestral home, board by board, and has no intention of leaving it or the 250-acre farm that has been in his family since 1851.

Two years ago, surveyors started showing up, wanting a clear idea of his property lines for Texas Central Railway, the company behind plans for a 200-mph “bullet train” connecting Houston to Dallas. The proposed route would go through Shelton’s farm.

“I guarantee I will be restoring that house until that first train comes over that hill,” Shelton said.

Source: Bullet train sparks fight as old as Texas: Progress vs. tradition – HoustonChronicle.com

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Houston population growth fueling expansion of commuter bus options

When Brian Moeller, 37, moved to Houston in 2013 from Denver, following his wife by about six months, the first thing he did was find a job.

“We had an apartment in Katy close to her work, my job was in Westchase,” Moeller said. “Easy enough, I’ll take the bus.”

Except it wasn’t easy enough. At the time the commute to his job overseeing computer systems for  a title management company would have required his wife to drop him off at a park ride, where he would ride into Uptown, then take two buses to work.

“I couldn’t believe, living there, no buses could get me to my job — which isn’t in the middle of nowhere. It’s in an office park. A big one.”

Source: Houston population growth fueling expansion of commuter bus options – HoustonChronicle.com

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U.S. 290 construction finally to end (mostly) later this year

Frequent travelers of U.S. 290 know two different eras of the freeway: Before Construction and During Construction.

Before miles of construction started in 2011, U.S. 290 was a tied-up mess slowing to a crawl by increased demand. During is six years of freeway closings, lane changes and narrow stretches shared by heavy trucks – along with even more traffic.

“It’s been like having a root canal for six years,” said Peter Perez, 42, who drives into Uptown every work day from Jersey Village.

Source: U.S. 290 construction finally to end (mostly) later this year – HoustonChronicle.com

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City poised to open streets to ‘dockless’ bike sharing 

docklessA rainbow of bicycles likely is coming to Houston sidewalks soon, so long as the yellow, green, orange and gray bikes do not get blacklisted by a skeptical City Council.

Houston officials are poised to open the city to at least six dockless bike-sharing companies that will distribute the readily-available cycles throughout the 11 council districts – something council members stressed is a priority.

Source: City poised to open streets to ‘dockless’ bike sharing – Houston Chronicle

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Harvey’s lasting legacy – disaster prep

Sporting goods and hardware stores are reporting increased sales and interest in on solar power generation, batteries and water filtration, as many people try to prepare for what they recognize is an eventuality in Houston: Living without aid for a few days.

Even some items at grocery stores are doing brisk sales after the waters have receded. HEB carries five kinds of powdered milk and typically sold about 500 units per week in the Houston area, grocery spokeswoman Cyndy Garza Roberts said.

“The week the storm hit and the week prior we averaged 2,000 units sales a week,” she said.

prepEven as the intense recovery sales have ebbed, HEB still is selling about 600 units a week, though the increase could stem from various factors, including people still living in limited conditions as they rebuild homes.

Source: Harvey’s lasting legacy – disaster prep – Houston Chronicle

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