Plans Move Ahead For Ambitious Houston-Area Freeway Project

The Grand Parkway started showing up on maps as early as 1962. Only two segments are open right now, but officials hope that by 2015, you'll be able to drive the west side of the parkway without hitting a red light. 

David Gornet is executive director of the Grand Parkway Association, a nonprofit corporation that oversees the project's development.

"The city, as we go from 4 million to 6 million to 8 million, or who knows what will happen here in the future, we need to plan for our transportation needs."

Right now TxDOT is working on financing for the northwestern segment of the parkway.  Construction will start early next year on a 37 mile section from U.S. Highway 290 to U.S. 59.  The roadway will be a controlled-access tollway. 

That means you'll need a toll tag to use it. 

As for the cost of construction, it's expected to be around $1 billion dollars. 

"TxDOT will sell bonds. These bonds we anticipate will be 30 year term. The interest rate should be very low, somewhere less than 4 percent on those."

That section of the parkway will be constructed using what's known as a "design-build" concept.  Gornet says that's when the contractor does the actual design work along with construction. The contractor will also acquire rights-of-way on TxDOT's behalf.

"As the design is moving forward the contractor can begin work on, say, digging the drainage ditches. Those can begin earlier. They can start placing embankment for overpasses at major interchanges."

Now as for what's going on right now, crews are working on Segment E.  That's a 15 mile section between between I-10 and 290. 

But the recent discovery of prehistoric remains and artifacts has delayed some of that work.

"The contractor has been able to work in all areas, expect in the immediate vicinity of this archaeological site. And so the contractor has been working toward the south, going northward toward the site, and likewise he's been working from the 290 area southward toward the site."

Segment E has also been the subject of a lawsuit from the Sierra Club over concerns about storm water runoff and how it would affect the nearby Addicks and Barker dams. A federal judge ruled in August that construction can proceed. 

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