Retailers in the Uptown Houston area were starting to get nervous that another holiday season would go by with the West Loop under major construction. But Uptown Houston District President John Breeding says overall, the project wasn't nearly as bad as they thought it would be.
,em>"I think the worst day of construction was the day before it started because we knew it was coming, people were quite concerned about what the impact would be. And I think, in fact, it impacted our office leasing. But what we found as construction began and we saw that we were going to be able to get in and out of the area, that we were going to be able to get through the area, we actually began to see an uptick in the market."
The West Loop is one of the busiest freeways in Houston, and the construction contract for the project totalled $344 million. TxDOT Engineer Gary Triesch says may be surprised to realize the project didn't create additional lanes. But the ramp patterns were changed, along with longer merge lanes and an inside shoulder.
"The safety aspects of it, it was tight and constrained and that was one of the problems. When something happened, whether an accident or just a breakdown, there was no place for anybody to go and so everybody backed up. We haven't cured all of the problems, but you've got the best ramp designs and everything -- much longer, much wider and that will help to move traffic much better for years to come."
The West Loop project was scheduled for completion around Christmas. But under an incentive program, the contractor receives a large bonus for finishing ahead of schedule. Breeding says the changes will make a significant difference for shoppers seeking quick access to retail centers.
"It's amazing that we didn't have a Westheimer exit, the busiest street in the city. And now we have -- you can get -- if you're on Westheimer you can get on the freeway from Westheimer, if you are on the freeway you can get off at Westheimer, we can do that at Hidalgo, we can get to 610 South easier."
The 610 West Loop first opened nearly 40 years ago, in 1969. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.