For many long-suffering Houston drivers, a solution to the infuriating bottleneck on Interstate 45 through downtown is likely something they thought they wouldn’t live to see.

 

More than a decade ago, a plan pitched to solve the problem – moving the interstate to the east side of downtown and demolishing the Pierce Elevated – appeared so preposterous they thought it would never get off the ground. It was too big of a change, too ambitious, too expensive and too disruptive.

 

Turns out it was also too good to pass up, leading to efforts by local transportation officials to now include the first phases of the project in an updated, expanded statewide transportation plan. So the project some only dreamed about is, at least on paper, a reality, pending the allocation of more than $900 million for the reconstruction of two major interstate intersections in the downtown area.

Though these first steps are incremental compared to the overall plan, officials say they are important and send the clear message: The I-45 freeway is relocating and the elevated portion along Pierce will be abandoned and maybe demolished within the next dozen years.

 

“We are turning the key and starting the engine and moving,” said Quincy Allen, district director for the Texas Department of Transportation in Houston.

 

Work on revamping the freeway intersections is slated for late 2020 or early 2021, years ahead of when state officials first predicted when they unveiled their construction plans in 2014.