Transportation

Local Leaders To Austin: Don’t Defund Proposed Grand Parkway Segments

The Texas Transportation Commission is considering pulling the project amid changing sentiments over toll roads.

The section of the Grand Parkway between U.S. 290 and I-45 opened in March of 2016.

After years in the planning stages, the Texas Transportation Commission is now thinking about removing part of the Grand Parkway from its 10-year funding plan, known as the Unified Transportation Program.

The Grand Parkway was conceived as a 180-mile loop around greater Houston. Right now you can drive the western and northern portions of the Grand Parkway from I-69 Southwest Freeway to I-69 Eastex Freeway. A section near Baytown is also open, and an eastern segment is currently under construction in Liberty and Chambers Counties.

The proposed section they’re considering defunding is the part that would run from I-69 near Sugar Land to I-45 at League City. On planning documents, that section of the roadway is referred to as Segments B and C.

Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he doesn’t want to build any more toll roads in the state. But local leaders plan to speak at a public hearing about their need for the Grand Parkway, especially as the region’s population grows.

One of those signed up to speak is John Baumgartner, City Manager for League City.

“The Grand Parkway has been part of the planning process as a toll facility for a number of years,” said Baumgartner. “We were taken completely by surprise that they would even consider removing the Grand Parkway from the UTP primarily because it has a toll element to it.”

With League City’s population now standing at about 110,000, Baumgartner said that number could rise to about 200,000 people over the next few decades. To prepare for those new residents, Baumgartner said they expect to see hundreds of new homes in the southwest part of the city. Three large developments are currently being planned and new roads are being built along the Grand Parkway corridor.

“We’re seeing not development waiting on the Grand Parkway, but development in advance of the Grand Parkway, straddling both side of it,” Baumgartner told News 88.7.

Baumgartner also noted that the Grand Parkway is part of League City’s updated Master Mobility Plan. In addition, about $5 million to support the Grand Parkway project was included in the bond referendum League City voters recently approved for drainage and mobility improvements.

“What we see in the greater Houston region is there is such a need to improve the major limited-access roadways and to keep people moving, keep goods and freight moving,” said Baumgartner. He also noted the need for more roadway capacity to handle hurricane evacuations.

As for the governor’s concern over new toll roads, Baumgartner said he doesn’t see any other option for building the southern Grand Parkway segments. He feels that without the tolls, the region would have to wait years for new funding to come forward.

Friendswood State Senator Larry Taylor posted on social media that he’s been working with the commission and feels confident the roadway will be funded. The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council has also passed a resolution asking that the project be kept in the Unified Transportation Program.

Meanwhile TxDOT will only say that the project remains in the public comment phase.

The public hearing on the Unified Transportation Program is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Tuesday at TxDOT’s headquarters in Austin.

MORE: Full Conversation from Houston Matters

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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