Diamond lanes could cut Hwy 290 congestion

HOUSTON New diamond lanes are being added to Highway 290 between Eldridge Parkway and Skinner Road, and it will affect mostly the inside shoulder of Highway 290. But the hope is traffic will be eased by next summer.

Traffic on Highway 290 is becoming so notorious, some call it the new Katy Freeway.

Commuter Charlie Skinner explained, "You're looking at right now, from out in this area to downtown, you're looking at an hour to an hour and a half."

"It's ridiculous," said commuter Abraham Acosta. "Sometimes I can't get to where I'm trying to get at on time. I know just trying to get on Highway 6, it can take me like 30 minutes."

But that could change by summer because TxDOT and METRO are putting in new diamond lanes from Eldridge to Skinner. It means re-striping the currently unused inside shoulders and turning them into HOV lanes without the concrete barriers.

"By moving those cars out of the general purpose lanes, I think the overall corridor will see an improvement," said METRO's Vincent Obregon.

That improvement could cut the commute by as much as 20 minutes -- good news to people who have to drive Highway 290 a lot.

"I love that," enthused commuter Brent Frederich. "I do love that. Yes, yes, yes, I do."

TxDOT and METRO call the diamond lane project just the first step in easing traffic congestion on Highway 290, at a cost of $514,000. For now, commuters will take anything they can get.

"I think it will help everyone," Skinner said.

The project is still in its beginning stages. The winning bid will be decided Thursday and the re-striping should begin by the beginning of February. The diamond lanes should be in use by next June.

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