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Driving and Biking in the Big City

Here’s a shocker: Houstonians wasted more time in traffic in 2015

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Let’s start with me. Yes, I’ve wasted more time in traffic this year than last year and that is despite being off on medical leave and working from home for an unusual three months and two new knees of the year. I knew before this report that my commute has increased since I first started making a regular trek to the big city more than two decades ago.  Ask my suburban friends who are appalled at the two hours I spend to and fro work every day. I’ve been saying that my commute has increased a lot lately.

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

When I agreed to this gig, my commute was 45 minutes or less. Heck, when I used to teach at University of Houston at night, I gave myself 35 minutes to get to campus from my Livable Forest home, leaving my toddlers with their father who was home from his day job. But then, none of my UH students ever cared if I was on time or even absent. Such is the life of an adjunct professor.  And I had a silver convertible — also named Streak, like my current road bike. It was fun to drive home in the open air to find the kids asleep and the husband mellow. Today, it’s much different. As an empty-nester with a cool new swimming pool, great garden of flowers and a husband who is an inventive cook, I have a lot waiting for me at home.

I hated to see it counted in specifics and real-life metrics. This week, a new report from the Washington-based Inrix Inc. shows Houstonians wasted 12 more hours in traffic in 2015 than in years past. OMG! That’s a season of binge watching “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.” It gives me several meaningful episodes of “Game of Thrones” that I will now have to sit in a chair and lose my life to. Luckily, I’ve already binge watched all of “Luther” or I’d be in trouble, perhaps trying to watch on my iPad in the car.

The average Houstonian wasted about 74 hours in his or her car last year sitting in gridlock traffic, the report says. Yikes!  Of course, true.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Just last week, a terrible story erupted about a woman in a three-car wreck in Houston who took off her clothes and danced wildly on an 18-wheeler, stopping traffic for hours. I could be that woman! I have wanted to make a statement many days as I sat in my Nissan Rogue Clarence, going nowhere. Luckily for my now-adult children, I’ve kept my clothes on  . . . so far. They are still worried about their mom being tossed against the hood of Clarence and handcuffed by “The Man” who has stopped me three times in the last six months in sneaky speed traps for breaking the traffic laws.  I’m certain I’m being profiled now that I’m no longer a cute young thing who can talk her way out of a traffic ticket. They think I’ll pay and not complain. So far they are correct.

This week’s findings make Houston the city with the fourth worst traffic in the country.  We fall  behind Los Angeles (No. 1 ), Washington, D.C., (No. 2), and San Francisco (No. 3). It was the only Texas city to make the top 10.

Houston can brag of being the road most traveled in five of the top 100 most congested stretches of roads in the country. The city’s most trafficked area was the portion of Interstate 610 from the Woodway Drive exit to Beechnut Street, near the Galleria. The less than 7-mile strip, which has received low ratings before, should take about six minutes to traverse, according to the report. At peak travel time, the strip takes about 26 minutes. I believe it takes longer.

Almost to work

Almost to work

Other highly trafficked roads in Houston within the top 100 in the country were:

  • S. Highway 59 from Lorraine Street to Texas 288 (been there; done that.)
  • Interstate 45 from Texas 5 Spur to Gulf Bank Road
  • Interstate 610 from Evergreen Street to W. 11th Street
  • S. Highway 290 from Antoine Drive to N. Eldridge Parkway

Now, here’s the even worse news:

The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that it would invest $447 million toward relieving traffic on three of the city’s major highways. TxDOT has even proposed elevating lanes in some of the most congested areas of 610 to help alleviate traffic. However, construction on other roads is still expected to bring about closures and congestion.

When this road work creates even more traffic jams, I will certainly shed my clothes, dance in the grid-locked traffic and make a spectacle of myself. All I can say to the family is “Be prepared; I’m not quitting anytime soon.”

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