20 Apr Airo AV Publishes: Key ramp to Loop 610 opens, offering some relief at the big
Signs of progress at the Interstate 69 and Loop 610 intersection took a big step forward Sunday, as signs of life on area freeways continues at historic lows.
Crews opened the connector ramp from northbound I-69 to southbound Loop 610, including the exit from the new ramp to Fournace, which has been closed for two years. The opening does not include access from Loop 610 southbound to Fournace, though that connection should open soon, said Danny Perez, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation in Houston.
Work on the interchange, as with many TxDOT projects, accelerated slightly as traffic dropped. With vehicle volumes in some places half that of typical work days, crews were able to close lanes — in some cases, all of them — with minimal disruption. For the past two weeks, average speeds in the work zone returned to more than 60 mph, even during peak commuting. For the past three months, as work and lane closing clogged the interchange, average speeds typically dipped below 30 mph.
“We had a closure on the West Loop over the weekend and nobody cared,” James Koch, director of transportation planning and development for TxDOT’s Houston office, told regional transportation officials last week.
The newly opened ramp is part of a $259 million rebuild of the interchange, started in 2017. Crews are replacing ramps between the two freeways, making them all two lanes.
The work is aimed at eliminating some well-known bottlenecks at the choked interchange and will rebuild Loop 610 main lanes through the crossing.
The segment of Loop 610 from I-69 north to Interstate 10 is the most congested freeway segment in the state. Much of that gridlock happens at the intersection of the two, where about 330,000 vehicles pass along I-69 daily and 280,000 cars and trucks flow along Loop 610.
Though the new ramp is open, years of work remain on the interchange, where crews are not expected to finish until 2024.