County Considers Grand Parkway Toll Road Offer

Harris County commissioners say they'll consider an unsolicited offer from a local road construction company and an engineering firm to complete the nearly 200 mile Grand Parkway as a toll road. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the plan would let the county retain local control over the toll road, but share much of the burden of building and financing it.

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Commissioners hadn't expected the offer from Williams Brothersξ Construction and Dannenbaum Engineering, but say they're open to suggestions and will study the proposal. The two firms would finish the huge loop and the Harris County Toll Road Authority would likely operate it. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says it makes sense to listen to all ideas.

"Some ideas are good and some ideas aren't, but if you don't look into them, you don't gain anything. We are in a position where we have the six toll road projects that we need to complete and the Grand Parkway was always carved out as an exception, and this was an idea of how to deal with the Grand Parkway, and so yes, I think we ought to look at it and see."

A senate bill passed in the last legislative session gives Harris County the right to control its own toll roads, but it must come up with a plan for completion of the Grand Parkway before the next session in 2009.

"The key to me is to maintain local control. That's always been the interest of not only me, but the entire commissioners court even before I got here was that we wanted the Harris County Toll Road Authority to maintain local control of our toll roads and not have that money be going off to other parts of the state or to financiers in other parts of the world."
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Under the proposal, Harris County would share in the revenue generated by the Grand Parkway toll road. There's no timetable for the county's review, but Commissioner Sylvia Garcia says they shouldn't be surprised if they get other similar offers.ξξξξξ

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