HOUSTON, Texas - The 610 West Loop at the Southwest Freeway is the most congested section of roadway in the state of Texas. But a six-year project to rebuild the interchange is underway to get traffic moving again.
"It's pretty bad, and it seems to get worse every day," said Joey Bourret, manager of the Empty Vase flower shop in River Oaks.
Drivers for the Empty Vase brave Houston traffic to deliver dozens of fresh flowers all over the city. They're preparing for more backups once the project forces lane closures at the notoriously tricky interchange.
"When you go north on 610 to exit 59 going south, there's just one lane to get to 59 south, and it's always backed up, and there's always a wreck there," Bourret said.
TxDOT is trying to fix that very problem by building new, wider and longer ramps. You can already see utility and ground-level work at Westpark and South Rice, but as the year progresses, you will see more and more construction cones.
This spring, crews will begin building soundwalls along US-59 southbound from Sage to Chimney Rock, and along the 610 West Loop southbound, from Lehigh to Glenmont and Fournace to Elm.
Then crews will start work on the 59 northbound ramp to 610 southbound, and US-59 southbound to 610 northbound, with more significant lane closures beginning this summer.
One of the biggest impacts will be the US-59 HOV Westpark entrance and exit, which will shut down later this year and remain closed for the duration of the project. Drivers will still be able to use the HOV lane, but access will be restricted at Westpark.
TxDOT crews are scheduled to work around the clock seven days a week, but to help drivers out they're also planning to keep three lanes of the 610 West Loop open in each direction during construction.
About 300,000 drivers use this interchange every day, so drivers should expect a ripple effect around the city, and prepare to take alternate routes, as TxDOT works on the six-year project.