The San Jacinto River Authority has begun the process of laying more than 55 miles worth of pipe throughout South Montgomery County and The Woodlands as part of its Groundwater Reduction Plan. With much of the pipeline being installed under or next to heavily traveled roadways, Woodlands drivers will soon face traffic issues.
According to the SJRA, crews began installing pipeline along FM 2978 in mid July, while also clearing trees for pipes to be installed along the westernmost portions of Research Forest Drive.
Mark Smith, SJRA administrator for the Groundwater Reduction Plan, said pipeline installation in those areas likely would not affect traffic. But as the project heads east, roads will be impacted.
Smith said beginning in about mid-August, approximately 1.5 miles of roadway on Research Forest Drive between Trillium and Grogan’s Mill Road will see three lanes of traffic shut down as crews remove pavement to install a 30-inch pipeline.
“In that particular section we will be putting the line underneath the pavement,” Smith said.
To accommodate the construction, all three eastbound lanes on Research Forest Drive between West Trillium Circle and Grogan’s Mill Drive will be closed. Smith said all traffic will be diverted to the three westbound lanes, where one lane will be used for westbound traffic and one for eastbound traffic, with the third to be used as a center turn lane.
“We will maintain access to all of the businesses,” he said. “We’re not going to cut anyone off.”
The 1.5-mile stretch of Research Forest Drive that will experience lane closures is part of a larger 3-mile segment, dubbed Segment W2A, that will take about 18 months to complete.
“[The 1.-5 mile segment] is the only place on Research Forest where we will be doing closures,” Smith said. “The rest of [the construction] will be under the shoulder, and we will just be closing outside lanes adjacent to work zones.”
Smith said the SJRA is working with Montgomery County Precinct 3, which controls all traffic signals in The Woodlands, to coordinate traffic signals along Research Forest Drive during the construction phases.
“We are hiring an engineering firm to evaluate the models and traffic system and evaluate what changes and signal timing might help move the traffic through better,” Smith said.
The San Jacinto River Authority’s Groundwater Reduction Plan is an effort to meet the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s mandate that requires Montgomery County to reduce its reliance on groundwater by 30 percent by 2016. To meet the requirement, the SJRA is constructing a new water distribution system that pulls surface water from Lake Conroe.
The project includes a new water treatment plant and storage facility at the southern edge of Lake Conroe, both of which are under construction.
“The project includes two 5 million gallon storage tanks,” said Ronda Trow, SJRA public relations manager. “[The project] is more than just construction and that the traffic is going to be a challenge. When all of this is done, we are delivering water.”