The Texas Department of Transportation held a public hearing in Magnolia July 30 for the FM 2978 improvement project, which will widen the road to four lanes from FM 1488 to Conroe Hufsmith Road.
Construction is expected to begin on the northern portion of the road—from FM 1488 to Dry Creek—in late fall, and construction on the entire project is expected to span three years, according to TxDOT officials. Houston-based firm Jacobs Engineering has developed plans and a draft environmental assessment for the project.
James Caughorn, a project engineer with the firm, said the roadway widening is necessary to keep up with growth in Montgomery County.Read more
“The purpose of [the project] is to improve safety, traffic operations and travel times [along FM 2978],” Caughorn said. “The area around [FM] 2978 has been growing and is expected to continue to grow. Improvements are needed for connectivity and to accommodate growth.”
The FM 2978 widening will expand the road to two 11-foot lanes on either side with a center-turn lane for a 6.5-mile stretch. The project will use land within an existing 120-foot right of way for the extra lanes and shoulders, Caughorn said.
Because the road will expand to fill open ditches on both sides, four detention ponds will be developed to divert water once TxDOT acquires an additional 17.09 acres of vacant private property.
The project is estimated to cost $21 million, which includes right of way acquisition and utility relocation, according to TxDOT. Funding for the southern portion of project—from Dry Creek to Conroe Hufsmith Road—was awarded after voters passed Proposition 1 last November, which provided $278.7 million for Greater Houston roadway projects.
The northern portion will be funded from a combination of federal transportation and TxDOT funds, said David Wurdlow, Houston-Galveston Area Council program manager.
Residential, commercial effects
Jacobs Engineering environmental planner Ellen Stephenson conducted an environmental assessment of the FM 2978 improvements. She said there will be no displacements or relocations associated with the project.
“Reasonable measures will be taken to minimize the inconvenience to vehicles using the roadway during the construction phase,” Stephenson said. “Some temporary driveway closures will be required during construction but access to business and residential properties would be maintained.”
Stephenson said the project will also include noise barriers and a sound study to deflect some of the additional traffic noise resulting from the widened roadway.
A handful of residents spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing, including a number of cyclists who praised the addition of a 5-foot wide shared use bike lane and shoulder to the project plan.
Steve Schoger, a resident of The Woodlands and member of The Woodlands Cycling Club, said he was pleased to see TxDOT officials took bike lanes into consideration before drafting the road plans.
“FM 2978 is a gateway to other cycling routes in Montgomery County and to other venues, so it’s very important to be able to have safe passage for cyclists,” Schoger said. “As a motorist, I don’t want to hit a cyclist, and as a cyclist, I don’t want to be hit. So I applaud TxDOT for providing shoulders [measuring] no less than what we have right now. That was critical.”
Residents in the Magnolia area can send written public comments regarding the widening project to TxDOT’s Houston district office via mail or email by August 13. Comments will be complied and made available in a public hearing summary report.