I personally lived in Houston for several years and I drove that stretch of road many times. It is definitely not 26 lanes.
Here's how the Houston Chronicle contrives that number (and I still come up short on my count):
- There are only 4 thru lanes in each direction for a total of 8.
- There are an additional 2 interchange lanes in each direction, used for merging onto the Beltway (Hwy. 8). That's 4 more lanes for a total of 12.
- There are also 2 toll lanes in each direction. These are controlled-access thru lanes that you can pay to use if you don't want to sit in traffic during rush hour. That brings us to a total of 16 lanes.
Now here's where they're really cheating:
The Chronicle is counting the additional lanes of the feeders on each side of the highway. A "feeder" is a Texas-ism for a frontage road that runs parallel down the length of the highway to which the on- and off-ramps "feed" into (See? A feeder!).
Anyway, the feeder is not part of the freeway. It's just a regular road with normal intersections, traffic lights, and businesses on it. Those businesses have addresses like "12345 I -10 W", so technically they're on I-10. But it's pretty shady to count those as lanes. It's a totally separate road.
That brings us to 24 "lanes". I don't know where they're getting 26. The article says there are 3 "managed" (i.e. HOV) lanes in each direction instead of the two toll lanes. Maybe they're counting the crossovers? But those are official-use-only for emergency and construction vehicles. Those hardly count.
I also don't recall there being 4 lanes on the feeder, and indeed in Google Maps satellite view I only see 3 on one side and 4 on the other. But whatever. It's been a while since I've lived there.
Point is, the Katy freeway is absolutely, definitely not 26 lanes.