Fifty years ago U.S. Highway 290 was a two-lane road that carried about 15,000 vehicles a day. Now that daily count is up to over a quarter million. And considering the highway has about 1500 wrecks every year, that means many hours sitting in traffic on one of the state's most congested roadways.
But TxDOT is now promising significant relief. The state has identified $2 billion dollars in additional funding to improve the state's most crowded freeways, and some of that money is coming to 290.
TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson says the money will allow them to start work on a estimated $1.8 billion in 290 improvement projects.
"Not only will sections of the road be ready 20 years ahead of schedule, that could save drivers up to 20 minutes in commute time during the peak hours on 290 from IH 610 to SH 99."
TxDOT hopes to have all the 290 projects under construction by 2014. Houston District Engineer Michael Alford says they'll soon put out notices for public hearings.
"And we'll start bidding a lot of these projects in the next few months, all the way out to 2014, with this previously mentioned target day of 2016, actually opening this thing up, and getting some connection with this toll all the way out to State Highway 99."
And when the 290 project is finished, what will it look like? Alford says drivers will have a variety of options in a managed lane configuration.
"Which consists of four general purpose lanes, inbound and outbound, which actually is an additional general purpose lane in each direction, with two to three reversable managed lanes right in the middle of 290, carrying both high occupancy vehicles and toll traffic."
Officials say a free-flowing 290 will be good for business because commercial vehicles will spend less time tied up in traffic. Lt Governor David Dewhurst hopes it also makes for happier commuters, since they'll spend less time on the road.
"I couldn't help but take that 20 minutes a day, times five days a week, times, you know, who takes vacations, 365 days a year. And guess what? We came out with almost a hundred hours saved so you can be with your family."
Highway 290 improvement plans also call for a bike trail. Discussions are also underway with Metro concerning a possible light rail corridor.