Texas State Highway Beltway 8

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State Highway Beltway 8

Map
Tolled sections in green, free sections in red
Route information
Maintained by TxDOT
Length88.1 mi[1] (141.8 km)
Existed1983[1]–present
Major junctions
Beltway around Houston
Major intersections
Location
CountryUnited States
StateTexas
Highway system
SH 8 FM 8
Northbound at I-10 on the west side of Houston in 2007

Beltway 8 (BW8), the Sam Houston Parkway, along with the Sam Houston Tollway, is an 88-mile (142 km) beltway around the city of Houston, Texas, United States, lying entirely within Harris County.[2]

Beltway 8, a state highway maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), runs mostly along the frontage roads of the tollway, only using the main lanes where they are free: between Interstate 45 (I-45, North Freeway) and Interstate 69/US Highway 59 (I-69/US 59, Eastex Freeway); and between US 90 (Crosby Freeway) and I-10 (Baytown-East Freeway). The main lanes elsewhere are the Sam Houston Tollway, a toll road owned and operated by the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). East of Houston, the tollway crosses the Houston Ship Channel on the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge, a toll bridge; this forms a gap in Beltway 8 between I-10 (Baytown-East Freeway) and State Highway 225 (SH 225, La Porte Freeway).

Beltway 8 is the intermediate beltway in the Houston area. The inner beltway, I-610, lies mostly within Houston (except for an approximate two-mile (3.2 km) stretch that runs through the City of Bellaire), and the outer beltway, SH 99 (Grand Parkway), is currently partially complete.

Like other toll roads in the Houston area, the speed limit is 65 mph (105 km/h).

Route description

Free sections

The longest free section of main lanes is on the north side of Houston, stretching from Ella Boulevard east to Mesa Drive. This is maintained by TxDOT east of roughly the Hardy Toll Road interchange.[3] This particular free section has remained untolled since its 1969 opening because of accessibility to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It includes the interchanges with I-69/US 59 (Eastex Freeway), John F. Kennedy Boulevard, the Hardy Toll Road, and I-45 (North Freeway).

Three shorter free sections also exist:

  • North of Wallisville Road to Jacinto Port Boulevard, including the I-10 (Baytown-East Freeway) interchange.
  • SH 3 (Galveston Road) to Beamer Road, including the I-45 (Gulf Freeway) interchange.
  • West Airport Boulevard to Beechnut Street, including the I-69/US 59 (Southwest Freeway) interchange.

The frontage roads are generally continuous, and allow for slower free travel along the tolled segments. Only one break exists in the frontage roads; there are also several locations where one must turn to stay on them:

  • Jacinto Port Boulevard to SH 225—the frontage roads do not cross the Houston Ship Channel (and thus that piece of Beltway 8 was removed in 1978).[1]
  • Deerwood Drive to Boheme Drive—both directions are on the east side of the tollway for the crossing of Buffalo Bayou.
  • West Little York Road to US 290 (Northwest Freeway)—both directions shift to the west side, intersecting US 290 at Senate Avenue, northwest of the tollway. The west side shift was eliminated in late 2013 where the frontage road right of way was extended to US 290 as part of the US 290 widening project—the former lanes which shifted to the west side was re-routed to the new frontage roads with a signalized crossing.
  • At the Katy Freeway, some of the frontage road lanes bypass the intersection, allowing vehicles on the frontage road to travel through the interchange without stopping at traffic lights. The bypass was incorporated into the Katy Freeway reconstruction project to relieve congestion and elevated since a majority of the intersection is below grade level which had a past history of flooding during heavy rains.[4][5]
  • A section of the frontage road at Mykawa Road shared the right-of-way with the tollway from 1997 to 2016 (which merged into a single lane); with the widening of the tolled lanes between SH 288 and I-45, TxDOT constructed two flyover ramps (completed July 2016) which goes over a railroad right of way with two lanes per direction (this was originally planned back in 1997 until the widening project from the Southwest Freeway to I-10 east revived it). Back in 1997 when the southern portion of the tollway opened up motorists were forced to make a turn onto Mykawa Road and head south to Knapp Road in Pearland where it had an at-grade railroad crossing (the City of Pearland removed the access to the railroad crossing where a section of McHard Road during the mid-2000s a few miles south incorporated a flyover bridge over the existing railroad right-of-way).

Lane configuration

The lane count is for mainlanes only, unless otherwise noted. Starting at the north end of the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge, and moving in a clockwise direction, mainlane counts are as follows:

  • Two lanes each way between I-10 (East Freeway) and SH 225 (includes the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge);
  • Four lanes each way between SH 225 and SH 3 (Galveston Road);
  • Three lanes each way between SH 3 (Galveston Road) and Beamer Road;
  • Four lanes each way between Beamer Road and SH 288 (South Freeway)
  • Four lanes each way between SH 288 (South Freeway) and I-69/US 59 (Southwest Freeway);
  • Four lanes each way between I-69/US 59 (Southwest Freeway) and US 290 (portions between I-69/US 59 and Westpark Tollway);
  • Four lanes each way between US 290 and West Road;
  • Five lanes counterclockwise and four lanes clockwise between West Road and Gessner Road;
  • Four lanes each way between Gessner Road and I-45;
  • Three lanes each way between I-45 and JFK Boulevard (construction started in 2012 to add additional lanes to this section);
  • Four lanes each way between JFK Boulevard and I-69/US 59 (Eastex Freeway); and
  • Three lanes each way between I-69/US 59 (Eastex Freeway) and I-10 (East Freeway).

Tolls

Enforcement

Beltway 8 (八號公路 Bāhào Gōnglù) sign in Chinatown
Sign indicating proximity to the Beltway 8 Toll Bridge

A number of cameras are located at toll booths to record license plate information to a database and send a ticket for toll violations via mail. Recently, this system has been upgraded to alert local authorities if a vehicle has been flagged for any reason, including AMBER Alerts. When a flagged vehicle is detected, it notifies the closest law enforcement officer to investigate. At this time, Precinct 5 Constables and Harris County Sheriff's Office are being notified, but Houston Police Department has shown interest and wishes to be included to be notified. The total number of cameras that are planned for the system is 35.[6]

History

A previous route numbered Loop 8 was designated on September 25, 1939, in Beaumont, running from US 59 (later US 96, after the 1939 redescription of the highway system) at Gladys Street via Gulf Street, North Street, and Fourth Street to US 90 as a renumbering of SH 8 Loop. This route was cancelled on January 18, 1944.

Houston, known for its fast population growth, began planning for a second beltway in the 1950s (the first was the I-610 loop, created between the 1950s and the 1970s). The beltway was designated as part of the state highway system, reusing the Loop 8 number, on May 7, 1969. Because the proposed route had been referred to locally as the Outer Belt, and Harris County used similar nomenclature for segments of the route, the designation was changed to Beltway 8 on July 31, 1969.[7] It is the only state highway loop to bear the "Beltway" designation.

The beltway's construction was done in a piecemeal fashion, beginning with the opening of West Belt Drive and Roark Road, two surface streets, in the mid-1970s. Efforts to construct a bridge over the Houston Ship Channel were stymied until the Texas Turnpike Authority (TTA) was able to do so as a toll facility in the late 1970s. As a result, the section of Beltway 8 from I-10 to SH 225 on the east side of Houston was removed from the state highway system on July 24, 1978.[8] The Jesse H. Jones Memorial Bridge was opened in 1982. The TTA, however, turned down the opportunity to improve the entire beltway as well, leaving Harris County to upgrade the road to freeway standards. However, Harris County could not afford to build and maintain a freeway from its general fund.

In September 1983, county voters approved a referendum by a 7–3 margin to release up to $900 million in bonds to create two toll roads, the Hardy Toll Road (basically a reliever for I-45 between downtown Houston and Montgomery County) and the Sam Houston Tollway, which would be the main lanes of the Beltway. Shortly after the referendum, the Harris County Commissioners Court created the HCTRA to administer the construction and operation of the new road system. Then-County Judge Jon Lindsay is generally credited with shepherding the referendum from its infancy to its passage, along with the implementation of the plan for the roadway. During the public information campaign leading up to the referendum, the county government published brochures stating that the toll roads would become free once their construction costs had been recouped, but the tolls were not removed after the tollways were paid off.[9]

In 1989, The Bangles performed at the opening of the segment of Beltway 8 between I-10 (Katy Freeway) and US 290.[10] On July 7, 1990, a ceremony, called Road Party II, took place for the opening of the section of Beltway 8 between I-45 (North Freeway) and US 290, the final segment. Organizers had planned for a crowd of 100,000. KLOL, a radio station, sponsored the event. Jerry Lightfoot & The Essential Band did the opening 80-minute set.[11] The band Huey Lewis and the News performed at the ceremony.[10] The segment between US 290 and I-45 opened on July 8, 1990. The project was on schedule and $133 million (equivalent to $265 million in 2022[12]) under budget.[11]

Despite recent speculation about the possibility of the Sam Houston Tollway being sold by HCTRA to a private firm, the Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to keep the tollway in the hands of HCTRA.[13]

On September 3, 2007, the toll increased by $0.25 system wide with some exceptions.

On February 26, 2011, construction of the main lanes between I-69/US 59 (Eastex Freeway) and US 90 (Crosby Freeway) was completed, thus completing the entire beltway system.[14] This section was originally set to be completed between 2007 and 2009, but funding issues delayed its completion.[15] The project cost $400 million (equivalent to $533 million in 2022[12]) and was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.[16] The new 13-mile (21 km) section has three lanes in each direction, and an EZ Tag, TxTag or TollTag will be required to access it. Almost 60 years had passed between the planning of Beltway 8 and the opening of the final section.[2]

On August 28, 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused flooding to the West Belt and caused damage near I-10.[17]

Exit list

The entire route is in Harris County. All exits are unnumbered.

Locationmi[1][18]kmDestinationsNotes
Pasadena SH 225 – Deer Park, HoustonLast free counterclockwise exit before EZ TAG Only toll plaza at Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge
Red Bluff Road / Pasadena BoulevardTolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit
Spencer Highway / Vista Road / Pine StreetTolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit
Fairmont Parkway / Vista RoadAccess to Bayshore Medical Center
Sam Houston East Mainlane Plaza
Electronic toll tags or pay online (cash collection suspended due to COVID-19)[19]
Genoa-Red Bluff Road / Preston Road / Crenshaw RoadClockwise exit is via the Spencer Highway exit; last counterclockwise exit before toll plaza; no clockwise entrance (closed until August 2023); westbound mainlanes shut down between Genoa-Red Bluff and IH 45 until August 2023 for road surface repairs; traffic must exit at SH 3 or take IH 45
Houston7.512.1 SH 3 (Old Galveston Road)No clockwise entrance (closed until August 2023)
I-45 – Galveston, HoustonI-45 exit 32
Sabo RoadClockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Beamer Road / Sabo Road / Hughes RoadLast free clockwise exit before toll road resumes; Sabo Road signed on counterclockwise exit; access to Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital
Blackhawk RoadTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Pearland Parkway / Monroe RoadTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
SH 35 (Telephone Road) – Hobby AirportNo clockwise entrance
Mykawa RoadCounterclockwise exit and clockwise entrance
South Wayside DriveTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Sam Houston Southeast Mainlane Plaza
Electronic toll tags or pay online (cash collection suspended due to COVID-19)[19]
FM 865 (Cullen Boulevard) / Scott StreetTolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit
SH 288 / Fellows RoadNon-toll access to SH 288 (South Freeway) via frontage road
SH 288 Toll / Brazoria County Expressway – Lake Jackson, Freeport, Downtown HoustonDirect ramps to SH 288 (South Freeway) via SH 288's toll lanes
Kirby DriveCounterclockwise exit and clockwise entrance
Sam Houston Southwest Mainlane Plaza
Electronic toll tags or pay online (cash collection suspended due to COVID-19)[19]
FM 521 (Almeda Road)Tolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit
HoustonSouth Post Oak RoadCounterclockwise exit is via the West Fuqua Street exit
West Fuqua StreetTolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit

Fort Bend Tollway north / Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road south / Hillcroft Avenue
Tolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit; access to Fort Bend Toll Road via frontage roads and Hillcroft Avenue
Fondren RoadCounterclockwise exit is via the US 90 Alt. exit
Missouri City
US 90 Alt. (South Main Street)
Tolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit
South Gessner RoadCounterclockwise exit is via West Airport Boulevard
HoustonWest Airport BoulevardLast free counterclockwise exit before toll road resumes
West Bellfort BoulevardClockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
31.150.1 I-69 / US 59 – Victoria, Downtown HoustonI-69/US 59 exit 115 (115B southbound) to tollway; 115C southbound to frontage roads
Beltway 8 (Frontage Road)Counterclockwise exit only
32.251.8Bissonnet StreetCounterclockwise exit and clockwise entrance
Beechnut StreetLast free clockwise exit before toll road resumes
Bellaire Boulevard / Westpark DriveTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Westpark TollwayTolled clockwise exits (direct connectors to Westpark Tollway east and west) and counterclockwise entrances; access to Westpark Tollway west from counterclockwise Sam Houston Tollway via frontage road
36.358.4 FM 1093 (Westheimer Road) / Richmond AvenueTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Briar Forest DriveTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Sam Houston South Mainlane Plaza
Electronic toll tags or pay online (cash collection suspended due to COVID-19)[19]
Deerwood DriveCounterclockwise tolled exit only
Boheme DriveClockwise exit only
Memorial DriveClockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
39.663.7 I-10 (US 90) – San Antonio, Downtown HoustonI-10 exit 756 eastbound, 756B westbound
Westview DriveCounterclockwise exit and clockwise entrance
Hammerly Boulevard / Kempwood DriveTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Clay Road / Tanner Road / Kempwood DriveTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Sam Houston Central Mainlane Plaza
Electronic toll tags or pay online (cash collection suspended due to COVID-19)[19]
West Little York RoadClockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
46.074.0 US 290 – Austin, Downtown Houston
West Road / Philippine Street
Fallbrook Drive / Windfern RoadTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance; counterclockwise exit is via the Gessner Road exit, access to Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center
Gessner Road / Fairbanks North Houston RoadTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
52.384.2 SH 249 / Hollister Road / Fairbanks North Houston Road – Tomball, Downtown HoustonTolled clockwise exits and counterclockwise entrances; direct ramps to and from SH 249 northbound connect to the Sam Houston Tollway mainlanes
Sam Houston North Mainlane Plaza
Electronic toll tags or pay online (cash collection suspended due to COVID-19)[19]
Antoine Drive / Bammel North Houston RoadClockwise exit is via the SH 249 exit
Veterans Memorial Drive / T.C. Jester BoulevardCounterclockwise exit is via the last free exit for Ella Boulevard
Houston Beltway 8 (Frontage Road) / Greens Crossing / Ella BoulevardLast free counterclockwise exit before toll road resumes
58.594.1 I-45 – Dallas, Downtown HoustonI-45 exit 60B southbound, 60C-D northbound
Greenspoint Drive
Imperial Valley DriveClockwise exit is via the Greenspoint Drive exit; no clockwise entrance (closed until November 2021)
Hardy Toll RoadClockwise traffic has direct ramp to Hardy Toll Road northbound
Aldine-Westfield Road
HoustonJFK Boulevard / Vickery Drive - Bush Intercontinental AirportVickery Drive signed clockwise only
Intercontinental AirportClockwise exit and entrance, respectively, to northbound and from southbound JFK Boulevard
Lee Road / Vickery DriveVickery Drive signed counterclockwise only
65.6105.6 I-69 / US 59 – Cleveland, HoustonI-69/US 59 exit 144A; 144B southbound to frontage roads
Mesa DriveLast free clockwise exit before EZ TAG Only section of toll road begins
Wilson RoadTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
John Ralston Road / Lockwood RoadTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
West Lake Houston ParkwayTolled clockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Sam Houston Northeast Mainlane Gantry
Electronic toll tags only, no cash allowed
Generation Parkway / North Lake Houston Parkway / CE King Parkway/ FM 526Tolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit; Generation Parkway was formerly Winfield Road
Garrett Road / Little York RoadTolled clockwise entrance and counterclockwise exit
US 90 (Crosby Freeway) / Tidwell Road – Liberty, HoustonLast free counterclockwise exit before EZ TAG Only section of toll road begins; access to Crosby Freeway via frontage road
Wallisville Road
Woodforest Boulevard
Market StreetCounterclockwise exit and clockwise entrance
83.13133.78 I-10 – Beaumont, HoustonI-10 exit 781A westbound, 781B eastbound
Jacinto Port BoulevardClockwise exit and counterclockwise entrance
Last free clockwise exit before EZ TAG Only toll plaza
Ship Channel Bridge Mainlane Gantry
Electronic toll tags only, no cash allowed
PasadenaJesse H. Jones Memorial Bridge/Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

References

  1. ^ a b c d Transportation Planning and Programming Division (n.d.). "State Highway Loop No. 8". Highway Designation Files. Texas Department of Transportation.
  2. ^ a b "Final Section of Sam Houston Tollway Opens". Houston: KTRK-TV. February 26, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2011.
  3. ^ Harris County Toll Road Authority. Sam Houston & Hardy Toll Road Map (Map). Houston: Harris County Toll Road Authority.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ "Schematic Layout: IH 10 Katy Freeway (at Beltway 8)" (PDF). Texas Department of Transportation. June 19, 2003. Retrieved October 14, 2006. Note: Bypass feeder lanes are in dark purple; non-bypass feeder lanes are in dark blue and are beneath the bypass lanes.
  5. ^ Slotboom, Erik (December 30, 2005). "Interstate 10: Construction, Loop 610 to BW8 (VIDEO)". Houston Freeways. Archived from the original on 2007-06-21. Retrieved October 14, 2005.
  6. ^ Ruiz, Rosanna (April 5, 2008). "Toll Road Cameras Looking Beyond Scofflaw Drivers: Camera System Upgraded to Help Catch Criminals". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  7. ^ Texas State Highway Department (July 31, 1969). "Minute Orders of the 693rd Meeting of the Texas State Highway Department" (PDF). Austin: Texas State Highway Department. Retrieved December 25, 2022.
  8. ^ Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation (July 24, 1978). "Minute Orders of the 810th Meeting of the Texas State Highway and Public Transportation Commission" (PDF). Austin: Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation. Retrieved December 25, 2022.
  9. ^ "13 Undercover Finds Out You're Still Paying for Toll Roads that You've Already Paid Off". Houston: KTRK-TV. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Gonazles, J.R. (February 25, 2011). "What Does the Sam Houston Tollway Have to Do with the Bangles?". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2011-03-17. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Racine, Marty (July 9, 1990). "Roadshow/Huey Lewis Offers Driving Rock at Party for Tollway Opening". Houston Chronicle. Houston Section, p. 1. Archived from the original on 2011-06-28. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved December 19, 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  13. ^ Murphy, Bill (June 21, 2006). "Harris County Won't Sell or Lease Toll Roads". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 9, 2006.
  14. ^ Morris, Mike (February 21, 2011). "The Beltway Finally Comes Full Circle". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  15. ^ Sallee, Rad (June 5, 2006). "Plans for Beltway 8 near Fall Creek Fuzzy". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 9, 2006.
  16. ^ "Sam Houston Tollway Northeast to Provide an 'EZ' Way to Get Around". Houston Chronicle. February 16, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  17. ^ "Then-and-now photos show how Harvey flooded Houston neighborhoods". Houston Chronicle. August 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  18. ^ Texas County Highway Maps
  19. ^ a b c d e f Delony, Doug (2020-03-12). "Harris County toll roads no longer accepting cash due to coronavirus pandemic". KHOU-TV. Retrieved 2022-02-20.

External links