A look at Houston's worst commutes

By Tera Roberson - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - Houston traffic can be a nightmare, whether it's day or night.

Ask random drivers and they will tell you.

“It's the absolute worst -- a lot of stress, a lot of waiting and a lot of patience,” said one Houston-area driver.

Others we talked to said the traffic makes them want to cry, or even pull out their hair.

Danny Perez, with the Texas Department of Transportation, says Houston traffic doesn't really have a schedule.

“Traffic is not just like the old days where it was the p.m. rush where you had people leaving downtown, or the morning rush, folks going into downtown. It’s all ways, and everyone going all different kinds of directions,” Perez said.

Channel 2 Investigates analyzed the latest data from Houston TranStar, the agency that tracks traffic, to learn which drivers have the worst commute.

We'll start with I-45 south. If you drive in on I-45 from Farm-to-Market Road 646 to downtown at 7:30 a.m., you're spending 53 minutes in the car. That time has remained consistent over the past few years.

From Pearland, taking State Highway 288 into downtown from Highway 6 takes nearly 40 minutes. And it may get worse this year due to construction.

Perez said there is relief on the way.

“We're calling it the North Houston Highway Improvement Project. That's going to put I-45 from the west side of downtown to the east side of downtown, for instance—so behind George R. Brown and Minute Maid. So you'll have (U.S. Route) 59, (I-) 69 and I-45 that will run together, within the same area, as opposed to I-45 on the west side and (U.S. Route) 59, (I-) 69 on the east side," Perez said.

WATCH: North Houston Highway Improvement Project

If you're a northside commuter, the early bird gets the worm.

From FM 1488 into downtown, your commute at 6:30 a.m. is just over 46 minutes.

That's down 10 minutes from the previous year.

In Katy, if you're headed downtown on I-10 from Pin Oak Road, your commute at 6:30 a.m. is also down a full 11 minutes from last year, to 46 minutes. Did you notice?

Our friends on U.S. Route 290, which was once a big pain due to ongoing construction, have seen commute times improve. The drive in from Barker Cypress Road to downtown has dropped seven minutes since 2015, to 45 minutes total.

But when it comes to the Galleria area, Houston drivers are feeling the pain. One driver said, “Houston traffic is bad, but now that U.S. Route 290 is a little bit better, (I-)610 and the Galleria is the worst. It keeps things super bottled up.”

The Galleria area, a major chokepoint, is about to get even more congested because of construction. A project to rebuild new connector ramps at the west loop and U.S. Route 59 is going to take six years to finish.

Perez said that, when it's completed, drivers will see a big improvement.

“We're improving mobility through there, improving safety. That's also including the main lanes of (I-)610. We're not widening the main lanes but it's the bridge that goes over (I-)69/(U.S. Route) 59. We're actually going to widen it so we can add some shoulders,” he said.

Perez said the agency is also mindful to plan work when it's least disruptive to drivers, including weekends and nightly closures.

The folks from TxDOT also advise you to "know before you go" and check your route before you hit the road. Checking your route on the Houston TranStar website is pretty easy. Visit this site and click the Traffic Conditions tab.

And to report stalled vehicles along your commute, click here.

To see the best time to leave in order to get where you're going on time, click here.

To see how many vehicles pass daily on the streets you take, click here.

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