In 2006, the US Census Bureau estimated that the population of Harris County, which Houston is in, had over 3.8 million people. On the major freeways at certain times, yes, there is congestion. The state is constantly expanding roads to try and keep up with growth though. Certain sides of town will have more congestion than others. If traffic is a concern, I would take that in to consideration when looking at homes. http://www.traffic.com can email real time traffic stats for many cities. It might be a good place to check out. Good luck.
As a former Houstonian I can tell you that the information will evolve constantly. When I first moved to the Houston area 24 years ago I-45 was the biggest mess (we affectionately ? called it the parking lot), then I-10 made it's debut as a major fiasco. You will definately have to check with a seasoned real estate professional (not me...I live in sleepy little College Station now, with little or no traffic!) that knows not only the traffic issues currently, but future plans for mitigation or construction.
My accounting professor in college used to say that I-10 is probably the only highway that gets backed up on both directions at the same time, WITH NO ACCIDENT! Other than that the traffic in the city is fine. You might hear many Houstonians complain about it. However, every time we have a client coming in from California we hear the same line: You call this traffic? This is a breeze!
I just got back from spending some time in Houston and I'd agree with what you've read already...choose somewhere close to where you work. Also, look into living where you could access public transit with relative ease. It's not a bad way to go.
290 gets backed up sometimes too. 45 usually is not too bad until you get close to Conroe. Way north of downtown. I-10..well, there is a lot of construction for awhile. Sorry, I just noticed the updated part of your question.
Every time I visit relatives in Houston, I-10 is a parking lot. That being said, how many major cities do not face similar freeway problems? Perhaps a local can verify, but didn't I hear that the 10 is being expanded by something like 10 lanes?
When living in Houston, unless you enjoy two hour car rides, it's important that you try to live and work in roughly the same areas. Traffic is improving overall I believe, with the massive overhaul of both I-10 and I-59, but of course with more lanes, comes more traffic. You would probably do well to monitor sites like http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/layers/ at various times throughout the day to get a feel for what traffic is really like.
Absolutely! When you decide to move look at all your options and note what are the worst areas of congestion in Houston. Real Estate professionals will know and understand where to lead you in your search. The inner city has become a very popular area because you are so close to work, shopping and all airports. Schools are good (depending on the neighborhood), restaurants are great all over our City and shopping is in abundance.