Houston is Big. As a city, we are made up of a large collection of small unique neighborhoods. When looking at the downtown area specifically, there are multiple successful neighborhood cultures all happening within blocks of each other; however, unless you are driving there is no easy way to get from one area to the next. The Pierce Elevated provides a way to move bikers and pedestrians around these neighborhoods without having to fight with the car traffic below. The elevated highway already connects the neighborhoods with a series of existing on/off ramps, which would ensure high usage. To further promote use, the highway will host amenities such as a main alternative transit hub at Main street, residential towers, hospitality, retail, and public art installations.
The plan to sink I-69 underground provides the perfect opportunity to install street level dedicated bike lanes that can help to unite downtown with east downtown and provide a consistent and reliable way to get to the pierce elevated on a bike.
Buffalo Bayou Park Entry
Pierce elevated runs under the west Dallas bridge maintaining a pedestrian/biker friendly connection to buffalo bayou park that does not interfere with the car traffic above. At this point, the urban district becomes part of the park and the highways are primarily for bicycle traffic due to multiple on/off ramps. The highway park will feature gardens, tensile shade structures, lookout points, and rest stops.
To help encourage success with the elevated program, a premium grocery store is proposed for the high density of residential in the neighborhoods. This location central to downtown, midtown and Washington Heights. The large park space adjacent to the grocer can host farmers markets and other sponsored events. A connection at the highway level will provide separate access for pedestrian and bikers.
Overlook & 1-69 Connection
On one side of the freeway, a lookout will provide views of the city where the highway once ramped up. The other side of the highway will ramp down at this point to connect with I-69. A large park will anchor the highway at this point providing a car park for visitors, a self-driving uber car pick up / drop off, bike rental station and public art displays.
Main Street Station
The bike share programs in Houston were looking to offer a way for people to get around town to run errands and do personal business; however, the bikes are predominately used for recreation because there are not many places that are bike/pedestrian friendly. Main Street Station is a destination for pedestrians and bicyclists. The promenade will host retail, food and beverage facilities, residential, public art and bike storage/rental/purchase amenities that maintain a natural park setting. The structure provides shade with systematically placed louvers that block the sun only where needed. Greenery is layered on top of the structure to maintain a natural and cool environment underneath.
Future and Phasing
The park can easily be done in phases once the highway is no longer in use. A few of the lots can be donated to the city of Houston to develop the pierce park which encompasses the portions of the highways above buffalo bayou. The remainder of the lots can be sold with the highway in place. When selling the lots, stipulations can be placed that ensure the highway and/or the transportation it will provide remain. Residential towers and hotels can be built over the highway to promote the use of the businesses and amenities along the urban park. A grocery store can anchor the highway development near the residential area of midtown. This will provide a walkable/bikeable grocery store for all the developments in the park, those in the adjacent midtown neighborhood and for downtown and north Washington residents