HOUSTON — At least 30,000 people from all over the world are in town for one of the country's largest oil and gas tradeshows, the Offshore Technology Conference.
Houston Airport System thinks the influx of visitors to Houston may be why so many drivers sat in hours-long traffic at Bush Intercontinental Airport Sunday evening.
The ongoing construction of a brand new international terminal is also directly related to the bumper-to-bumper traffic now often seen at IAH Terminals C, D and E.
“We had no idea there was that much construction,” said Srini Chittaluru during a Zoom interview from his Sugar Land home.
Chittaluru had exited Beltway 8 for JFK Boulevard just after 6 p.m. when he received a text from his wife. She arrived early and had made it through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and had her luggage ready outside Terminal E.
Chittaluru told his wife he’d be there, curbside, in five minutes.
“Because from JFK Boulevard, it will only take five minutes to get to any terminal. And then, five minutes turned into three hours," he said.
Hours of panic and desperation set in for people anxious about making their flight.
Chittaluru snapped photos on his cellphone of people walking through the standstill in an attempt to reach the airport.
“It’s pretty risky, you know, because it’s not like a walkway or anything, because there’s no sidewalk, right? These guys were walking in between cars," he said.
The Public Information Officer for the Houston Airport System, Augusto Bernal, said there is hope on the horizon.
“We see some relief in sight,” said Bernal of the ongoing construction project that he said is running on time and on budget.
“On June 6th at the terminal E, arrivals will start operating again. That’s going to open up some additional space for rideshare vehicles and private vehicles," Bernal said.
A month later, as Houston’s largest airport works to welcome back pre-pandemic levels of travel, another opportunity for congestion is expected to clear.
“At the beginning of July, we foresee having an additional lane through south terminal road that’s also going to alleviate that traffic.”
Until then, if you’re heading for Bush Intercontinental Airport, know this.
“Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, those are the times that people are traveling the most and we see this congestion on the roadway," he stated.
Construction on the new international terminal is set to be completed sometime in 2024.
“Two to three years, we’re going to have to deal with the construction?” questioned Chittaluru. “That’s a long time.”
So if you’re heading to one of the IAH terminals affected by construction, the airport recommends you access the airport through Terminals A or B. Garage parking is available there and both the subway and the skyway trams connect to all five terminals.
Bush Airport staff say it’s faster if you take the time to connect to your destined terminal from inside the airport. Also, add at least one hour to get to the airport, especially if you’re traveling during the peak times which are Thursday through Sunday.