HOUSTON -- Crawling through traffic on 290 is just a fact of life for Houston drivers. You can hate it, or you can use it for some time to think. One longtime commuter had a bright idea in one of his many hours spent on the freeway.
"Sitting still on 290 and the idea just popped into my head," said 290 commuter David Gutierrez.
An idea for a riddle on the road.
"I've gotten used to watching folks when I've stopped in traffic come up and pause for a minute and then you see the smiles and the laughing, nudging the passenger," Gutierrez said.
What has three numbers, three letters and sums up so many Houston commutes? To Gutierrez, it was: 290 SUX.
"The summers are hot and 290 sucks," said Gutierrez.
TxDOT says drivers waste close to 370,000 hours a year, per mile on 290, a contender for Houston's worst freeway.
So David Gutierrez submitted what so many are thinking for a vanity plate: 290 SUX.
"Do you think somebody there didn't notice?" asked KHOU 11 News Reporter Alice Barr. Gutierrez answered, "I think it slipped through."
Now it's catching on, on the roads and on social media.
"I've been called the 290 SUX guy when I walk into a restaurant," said Gutierrez.
He's earned the title. Gutierrez has seen it all out on the not-so-open road, from distracted cell phone chatters, to lane swervers, and the occasional peep show.
"You see people changing clothes, undressing."
More people doing more strange things. The population is booming along the 290 corridor, growing from 543,000 in 2006, to 688,000 in 2010. It's predicted to reach close to a million by 2040.
An 800 million dollar construction project widening the corridor to eight lanes should help in the long-run, but for now, Gutierrez said, "It's gonna get worse before it gets better."
So take a deep breath, turn on the radio and remember it's not all bad.
"It's a great town and other people are discovering that and coming here so we gotta do what we do to grow and bear with it," said Gutierrez.
It can't hurt to look out for a laugh in the next lane.