Tag Archives: Travel

SH 288 Toll Project Moves aStep Closer to Construction

TxDOT executed the agreement on March 4 with the contractor that will be constructing the expansion of SH 288. 
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TxDOT Launches TexasClearLanes.com to Keep Texans Informed on Efforts to Address Congestion

PRESS RELEASE

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Transportation today unveiled TexasClearLanes.com as a tool to keep Texans informed of the agency’s efforts to address traffic congestion. The website comes at a time when the agency is most focused on improving travel times for drivers as the state’s population continues to boom.

“Today, as part of the long-term Unified Transportation Program (UTP), we approved $1.3 billion to deliver critical road projects in the major metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million where drivers are experiencing the most gridlock,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., who was selected by the commission to lead the state’s congestion-reduction effort. “We are committed to bringing these projects online expeditiously to make travel for Texans more efficient.”

In addition to details about major road projects across the state, TexasClearLanes.com also will provide visitors with in-depth information on congestion across the state; advice on how they can get involved and do their part to reduce congestion; and examples of what Texas companies and state agencies are doing to improve mobility.

“Texas voters have told us that transportation is an essential priority and TexasClearLanes.com is a one-stop shop to share information on how TxDOT and local partners are further addressing congestion,” said Bob Kaufman, TxDOT director of Communications and Customer Service.

Weekend total closure scheduled for Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge

HCN NEWS SERVICES

568eb27318a61.imageThe Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) plans a total closure of the Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge the weekend of Friday, Jan.8 – Monday, Jan. 11 to convert the bridge to all-electronic tolling. When the bridge reopens, cash toll payment will no longer be accepted in the lanes. Drivers will need an EZ TAG or other type of interoperable toll tag on their vehicle to drive across the bridge and avoid a toll violation.

During the closure, construction crews will remove all toll booths, coin machines and demolish the plaza canopy. The changes will improve traffic flow by allowing drivers to cross the bridge without stopping to pay or having to merge with traffic that has stopped to pay at the toll booths.

Closure Details

8 p.m. Friday, January 8 – 5 a.m. Monday, January 11, 2016

Northbound traffic will be required to exit the Sam Houston Tollway at Pasadena/Red Bluff Road. As an alternate, northbound drivers can access SH-225 westbound to IH-610 and eastbound to SH 146.

Southbound traffic will be required to exit at Jacinto Port. Southbound traffic on the tollway will have access to the direct connectors to IH-10 westbound to IH-610 and to IH-10 eastbound through Channelview. All closures are subject to change due to inclement weather or emergencies.

Additionally, the IH 10 main lanes will be closed eastbound and westbound from Magnolia to Beltway 8 East beginning Friday, January 8 at 10 p.m. through Saturday, January 9 at noon. However, the IH 10 frontage road will remain open.

HCTRA has coordinated with Precinct 2 and other agencies to ensure that drivers will have alternate routes during the bridge closure.

The Lynchburg Ferry will operate extended hours from 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10. The Washburn Tunnel will maintain its normal hours of operation. Multi-axle vehicles, including 18 wheelers are prohibited from using the Washburn Tunnel.

Benefits of AET

EZ TAG-only tolling improves safety, reduces congestion and increases operational efficiency. Between 2011 and 2015, transactions at the Ship Channel Bridge increased by more than 40 percent. EZ TAG traffic at the toll plaza currently exceeds available capacity during peak travel times, and toll transactions are projected to grow another 15 percent by 2017. Cash users will save money by switching to EZ TAG. The current cash rate is $2.00 at the SCB plaza and $1.50 for customers will a toll tag.

Payment Options

Drivers without an EZ TAG can set up an account online using a major credit/debit card or a bank account or visit one of HCTRA’s EZ TAG stores.

Additionally, HCTRA has partnered with BancPass, an innovator in toll payment solutions, to develop a new, cash-reloadable type of EZ TAG account. For cash-preferred customers who don’t want to provide a credit card for automatic billing (required for a traditional EZ TAG account with HCTRA), the new EZ TAG powered by BancPass lets users pay cash, and pay-as-you-go.

Impact to Toll Collectors

Toll collectors currently assigned to the Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge Plaza will be transferred to available jobs at other plazas. At this time, HCTRA does not foresee a need to eliminate employment positions.

About HCTRA

The Harris County Toll Road Authority does not receive local, state or federal tax money. HCTRA is an Enterprise Fund of Harris County and relies on revenue from users to fund operations, maintenance, debt service and future projects. HCTRA operates 126 miles including the Sam Houston Tollway, Tomball Tollway, Hardy Toll Road, Westpark Tollway, Katy Managed Lanes and the Ship Channel Bridge.

MAJOR DELAYS AHEAD AS TXDOT CLOSES HOUSTON FREEWAYS

423500_630x354This weekend, expect some major delays around town. It’s the first weekend many TxDOT crews are back on the roads after the holidays.

First, I-10 is going to be shut down in both directions at I-45 right in the heart of downtown Houston. The eastbound lanes from the Katy or Galleria area will be closed from 8pm this evening until 5am on Monday morning. If you’re heading westbound from Baytown, your lanes will be blocked on Saturday from 6am to 6pm.

Read more at KTRK…

Tips to travel safely this holiday season

5670567437e56.imageAccording to AAA, nearly 99 million Americans will travel this holiday season. And they’ll be heading to spots such as Orlando, Los Angeles and Cancun, according to Orbitz.com’s 2015 holiday survey.

However, about 20 percent of people suffer some type of illness or injury while on vacation, with the most common ailments including food poisoning, car crashes or skiing accidents. Before you hit the road or take to the skies, consider these tips to make sure your health, safety and wallet are covered while you’re away.

1. Know Before You Go: Before traveling out of your home state or internationally, take time to review your health plan and understand what it covers. People traveling domestically should check if their health plan offers a national or local network of hospitals and health care providers, and confirm what level of coverage is available at out-of-network facilities. If traveling overseas, it is important people contact a primary care provider or travel medicine clinic to determine what pre-screenings or immunizations might be recommended or required, based on their health history and the countries they will visit.

2. Find Care Anywhere: Many health plans now offer telemedicine and mobile apps to support their customers’ health needs. The Health4Me app, available to anyone free of charge on iPhone or Android devices, enables users to identify nearby health care providers, hospitals, pharmacies and urgent care facilities, as well as compare quality and cost information for common medical services. Some health plans offer mobile apps that enable members to access a digital ID card and connect with a registered nurse 24/7. For international trips, contact your global insurance carrier to find out about the availability of approved medical facilities at planned travel destinations.

3. Protection Abroad: People help can alleviate concerns about quality of care and financial anxiety with international medical coverage. Global insurance companies can provide foreign language translation, direct you to appropriate facilities or support evacuation to alternative facilities, and can work with local health care providers to coordinate and monitor care. Most domestic insurance won’t cover prescriptions abroad, so for long vacations ask your care provider for enough medication to cover the duration of the trip (as well as check that specific medications are legal in the countries on the travel itinerary). Some international health plans may include prescription drug coverage that enables people to fill prescriptions at local retail pharmacies.

4. Get Your Credit: Even with international coverage, consider carrying an extra credit card with a large limit to use for unanticipated medical expenses. Foreign hospitals will typically want upfront payment, rather than billing the health plan. Get clear and complete copies of all bills, medical records and discharge notes for reimbursement from your health plan. Some global health plans do provide direct payments to foreign hospitals and care providers, eliminating a potential inconvenience and providing peace of mind.

5. Be A Savvy Senior: Original Medicare in nearly all cases applies to the United States only and does not extend overseas or across the border (other than in cases in the Northern U.S. where the nearest hospital is in Canada). Some Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement plans offer worldwide emergency coverage for foreign travel, although some have restrictions and lifetime limits. Finally, it’s important to check the condition of personal durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs or assisted-breathing machines, to ensure they’re working properly before departure.

Following these tips will help you focus on fun, friends and family during the holiday season, while helping alleviate stress from health care access or insurance issues during a medical emergency.

This Weekend’s I-45 Closures

TXDOT RELEASE

Work continues to progress on the $93 million construction project on I-45 Gulf Freeway from  FM 2351 to Medical Center Blvd.  Beginning this weekend there will be several closures along this portion of the corridor including a total closure from Bay Area Blvd. to El Dorado Blvd. The closures are necessary for the contractor to shift traffic onto the new northbound mainlanes.

The following closures will take place Friday, October 2 beginning at 8 p.m. thru Monday, October 5 at 5 a.m.:

  • Total Closure of I-45 Gulf Freeway northbound from Bay Area Blvd. to El Dorado Blvd.  Traffic will need to detour to Bay Area Blvd. and re-enter at El Dorado.
  • Two outside northbound mainlanes from El Dorado Blvd. to FM 1959/Dixie Farm Rd.

Motorists should expect heavy delays and are strongly encouraged to seek alternate routes.

For more information on scheduled lane closures in the Houston District, contact the Public Information Office at (713) 802-5076.  Also be sure to visit the Houston TranStar website at www.houstontranstar.org for a complete list of Houston District closures.  All closures are subject to change due to inclement weather.  Follow us on Twitter @TxDOTHoustonPIO.

Don’t Block the Box!

11120057_875839409136266_1528423036679520819_oThe City of Pearland Transportation Operations Division will be posting signage reminding drivers not to block the box at critical intersections around Pearland. When a driver enters an intersection and is unable to travel all the way through, they prevent cross traffic movement, and endanger other travelers by blocking crosswalks and bike lanes. In other words, blocking the box is unsafe, illegal and causes traffic congestion.

What does it mean when I block the box?
When you block the box, you have entered an intersection when cars on the other side prevent you from making it all the way through. In the state of Texas, this is illegal. If your light turns red before you can get out the intersection, you’re blocking cross traffic from moving forward and preventing mobility in crosswalks and bike lanes. In other words, if you block the box, you are traffic!

What should I do to avoid blocking the box?
To avoid blocking the box, you should wait to enter an intersection until you are sure you can make it all the way through, in accordance with Texas law. Wait behind the stop bar, not in the crosswalk, and look to see if the vehicles in front of you on the other side of the intersection have left enough room for you to make it through without stopping in the crosswalk on the other side.

What about if drivers behind me are honking and want me to go?
If you can’t clear an intersection, don’t enter it, period. Entering the intersection may stop those drivers from honking, but if cross traffic can’t get through because of you – those drivers will probably honk too.

Are there any dangers associated with blocking the box?
Yes. When cross traffic cannot get through, neither can emergency vehicles. Additionally, blocking the box can cause pedestrians to weave between cars if the crosswalk is impacted, decreasing their visibility to other travelers. Well, I just don’t want to wait for another light cycle. Everyone on Pearland roads is trying to get somewhere, whether that is home, work, school, or simply to meet up with friends and family. Be courteous to everyone’s trip, don’t block the box and we will all get to our destinations safely.

Pearland City Council supports Proposition 7

PRESS RELEASE

Pearland City Council approved a resolution in support of Proposition 7, a constitutional amendment for increased state funding for transportation.

Passage of Proposition 7 will provide additional transportation funds for on-system (TxDOT) roadways, which will allow more funds that traditionally are awarded to TxDOT projects to be awarded to local governments through the Houston Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). With the passage of Proposition 7, several City of Pearland projects, currently being evaluated for TIP funding, will have a significantly increased chance for funding.

Texans will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment on November 3 that will provide billions more in state transportation funding without new taxes, fees or debt. The Texas Sales and Use Tax Revenue for Transportation Amendment, Proposition 7 is on the November 2015 ballot as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, which was approved by the State Legislature earlier this year. The measure, upon voter approval, would provide additional funding for the State Highway Fund.

This new revenue for the State Highway Fund would be used to construct and maintain non-tolled roadways, purchase rights-of-way and make payments on general obligation bonds issued by the Texas Transportation Commission.

The funds would be provided from two sources:

  • Beginning in fiscal year 2018 (Sept. 1, 2017), up to $2.5 billion will be dedicated to the State Highway Fund annually from the state’s general sales tax, once the sales tax totals $28.0 billion. This allocation would expire on September 1, 2032.
  • Beginning in fiscal year 2020 (Sept. 1, 2019), 35 percent of the motor-vehicle sales tax revenue exceeding $5 billion would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund annually. For example, if $6 billion came in from this tax source, then 35 percent of $1 billion, or $350 million, would be dedicated to the fund. This allocation would expire on August 31, 2029.
    The Texas Legislature would be allowed to reduce the amount of sales and use tax revenue allocated to the State Highway Fund if two-thirds of legislators agree to do so. The legislature would also be permitted to extend these revenue allocations beyond their expiration dates for 10-year periods if a simple majority of legislators agree to do so.

This amendment, which follows the 2014 approval of Proposition 1, would provide another significant step toward meeting the unmet funding needs for transportation projects in Texas. However, the addition of this funding source will not “solve” Texas’ transportation funding challenge.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) estimates that the state has at least $5 billion in unmet transportation needs each year. Even with the passage of this ballot proposition, the state still faces a smaller but significant funding gap for transportation infrastructure.

The specific ballot language for the proposition reads: “The constitutional amendment dedicating certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for non-tolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt.”

For more information, visit PearlandTX.gov.

State Highway 288 Initiatives: City of Pearland

ShowImageOver the past 15 years, residents began using the Hwy 288 corridor to travel to the Medical Center, downtown Houston and the Galleria area for work. The growth of Pearland, coupled with the construction of Hwy 288 and Beltway 8, which provided area residents improved access to the major job centers in the Houston region, led to congestion issues on SH 288. Because of that, transportation and mobility initiatives have been planned to ease the congestion and improve mobility in and around the City of Pearland.

SH 288 Toll Project – Brazoria County portion (Updated as of August 2015):
  • Scope: Develop 4 toll lanes from CR 58 to the Harris/Brazoria County line.
  • Estimated Construction Cost: $100 M
  • Status: Design Phase at 95 percent, Finalizing T&R Investment Grade Study
SH 288 – Harris County portion (Updated as of August 2015):
  • Scope:   The Texas Department of Transportation project consists of a 10.3-mile section of SH 288 from US 59 to the Harris County line at Clear Creek in Harris County
  • Estimated Construction Cost: The total project investment is estimated at $800 million.
  • Status: Estimated construction start first quarter 2016, Estimate Open to Traffic Early 2019

The project includes the following:

  • The design, construction, maintenance, and operation of four tolled lanes within the median of SH 288 from US 59 to the Harris County line at Clear Creek and  design, construction, maintenance, and operation of up to eight direct connectors at Beltway 8
  • Direct connectors to provide access from SH 288 tolled lanes to the Texas Medical Center; eight direct connectors at Beltway 8; and rebuilds most of the I-610/SH 288 interchange.
  • Conditionally awarded project to Blueridge Transportation Group

Toll Project Map

Design Schematic

Beautification Efforts (A City of Pearland/Pearland Economic Development initiative):
  • In November 2013, a management district (PMMD#2) was created to improve the appearance the SH 288 corridor. A Board of Directors was established and a maintenance and operations tax of $0.10 per $100 in valuation was approved by voters in the District.
  • The 288 Corridor Master Improvements Plan was adopted by the Pearland Economic Development Board of Directors, the Pearland Municipal Management District #2 and the City of Pearland and includes plans and cost estimates for the beautification of key intersections along the corridor.
  • After PMMD#2’s approval of the SH 288 Master Improvements Plan, work began on the initial clean-up of the corridor, including the power washing of the Shadow Creek-SH 288 and FM 518-SH288 interchanges and more frequent mowing, sweeping, and trash collection along the corridor.
  • The City, PEDC and PMMD#2 have also been working to implement the long-term projects from the 288 Corridor Master Improvements Plan in unison with BCTRA and TxDOT plans for the managed toll lanes.
  • The first scope of work for this initial phase will include the hardscape enhancements that will be included in the County’s toll lane construction contract for work such as retaining walls, brick pavers, grading and amentitizing of the detention ponds for the entire corridor.
  • A second scope of work will be for the improvements at the toll lane entrance at Hughes Ranch/Discovery Bay Drive and the McHard/Shadow Creek Parkway interchange based on the Master Plan improvements. The completed design documents will depict actual materials, sizes and specific locations of all landscape elements, fine grading, lighting, irrigation, sidewalks and gateway markers. The Broadway, CR 59 and Beltway 8 intersections will be completed in later phases.

Beautification Efforts Key Milestones

DAYTIME ROAD CLOSURE

12027543_872318652821675_1789005381036623384_nThe Public Works Department has begun construction on the East Orange Street waterline replacement and resurfacing project. To provide work zone safety, the eastbound lane of Orange Street, from SH 35 to Old Alvin Road, will be closed Monday – Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Oct. 31.

The construction will not interfere with westbound traffic and should not interfere with access to any surrounding properties or businesses. The City urges all drivers to please exercise caution while in the area and obey all traffic controls or flaggers.