Houston-Highway-Map(HOUSTON) — A million people have moved here since Hurricane Ike in 2008, and it’s estimated that 100 new people move here every day, all of them confused by our highway nicknames.

The highways have numbers, but for the most part we don’t use them. That’s too easy. We like nicknames.

Take Interstate 45. North of the city, it’s the North Freeway because, well, it goes north. To the south it’s the Gulf Freeway. Guess where that one goes? Yep, the Gulf of Mexico: Galveston, where you might find tar balls or seaweed. But, it’s our beach and we love it. The elevated section of I-45 that goes through downtown is called The Pierce Elevated because it’s elevated and is next to Pierce Street.

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Slicing east and west through Houston, we have I-10. The part to the west of downtown links to Katy, so it’s called the Katy Freeway. To the east it’s called — wait for it — the East Freeway. It links downtown to Baytown, so it’s also called the Baytown East Freeway or “The Beast,” for short.

Then there’s Highway 59. It’s becoming Interstate 69, but that doesn’t change the nicknames. To the north of the city it’s the Eastex Freeway because it goes to East Texas. It runs between downtown and Humble (Don’t pronounce the “H”), Kingwood and other points to the northeast of the city.

To the southwest of downtown, 59 is called the Southwest Freeway. Some call it the “South-Worst Freeway” because of the traffic gridlock between the Galleria area and downtown during rush hour.

You’ll also see signs saying “Lloyd Bentsen Highway,” but we don’t call it that. Who’s Lloyd Bentsen? Well, among other things he was once a vice presidential candidate who told his opponent Dan Quayle, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” If you want to know more about Bentsen and Quayle, Google it.

I’m no history professor, so back to the highway nicknames.

Highway 290 is called the Northwest Freeway. Guess why? And Highway 288 is the South Freeway. Are you seeing a pattern here?

In addition to all of these roads, there are three loop systems. The closest one to downtown is Loop 610. We call that The Loop and you will discover, for instance, that the traffic on the North Loop and South Loop runs east and west. On the East and West Loop, the traffic runs north and south. This one is free, unlike the ones farther out of downtown.

The next circle moving away from downtown is the Sam Houston Tollway. Most of the time we call it Beltway 8 or The Belt. Same deal there with traffic flows. On the North and South Belt traffic runs east and west, and so on.

The outermost loop system is still under construction, although a lot of it is done. Highway 99 is also a toll road. It’s called The Grand Parkway.

With 100 new people moving here every day, please share the link to the NEWS 92 FM Newcomer’s Guide. The guide provides useful information for our newly transplanted Texans, and more content is regularly added.

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A Guide to Houston Highway Nicknames  was originally published on

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