Officials Hope New Toll Road Eases Congestion In Northwest Harris County

"Used to pull off Highway 249, had a cool little place that we'd go hide on a Friday night ... "

Tomball's Eli Young Band sang about that quiet place back in the woods but these days if you're over by 249:

It's more likely to sound like this.

"I think you could drive any segment of 249 and get bogged down at any point of time in the day."

That's Tomball City Manager George Shackleford.

"Any type of minor accident from Spring Cypress to up to Tomball is a complete choke point." 

And sometimes there's a major accident. It happened to Lone Star College-Tomball Vice-President John Fishero.   

"I was hit head-on by a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, and I think if the road had been a toll road and had had controlled access and the medians the toll road will have, that either one of those things would have prevented the accident."

So why all the wrecks and congestion? Census Bureau figures show Harris County's population has grown by 26% over the past decade. 

Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle As for future growth, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle points to business development like the new Exxon-Mobil complex, and the Baker-Hughes training facility.

"This is a region to where the mobility needs are not just from out there to in, but we also have folks who work in here who need to get out." 

Cagle has been making the rounds in support of the 249 toll road project.

Work starts this fall on phase one, from north of Spring-Cypress to north of the Tomball Bypass. 

The electronic toll road will have three lanes in each direction. They'll be built on what's now a large grassy median. The existing lanes will stay in place as a free access road. 

"Your fee that you pay is in essence a convenience and a speed fee. And you have a choice. You can either take the free feeders or get on the main lanes and fly."  

Phase Two will take the project further north to Pinehurst. That involves a partnership between Harris and Montgomery Counties. 

The price tag for the Harris County portion now stands at $335 million. That money will come from toll revenues. 

TxDOT is also studying whether to take the toll road to south of College Station. 

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