With less than two years remaining until the completion of the 38 miles of the Grand Parkway from Hwy. 290 to Hwy. 59, construction is well underway at Hwy. 249 and I-45, as well as other existing major thoroughfares.
Linda Merritt, public information officer for the Zachry-Odebrecht partnership, which is constructing Segments F-1, F-2 and G of the Grand Parkway, said construction at the Hwy. 249 interchange began Feb 19. The intersection will feature three levels, Merritt said. The first layer of the intersection will be the frontage roads of Hwy. 249, which will remain as they are now. The Tomball Tollway will elevate to the second level of the interchange, and the four main lanes of the Grand Parkway will be the third level crossing over the Tomball Tollway.
"There are no plans for direct connectors in this project," she said. "There are future plans for direct connects at such a time traffic studies support the addition of the direct connects."
Beams for the Grand Parkway were set over the southbound lanes of Hwy. 249 on its west side in late February. Construction beam setting for the northbound lanes of Hwy. 249 on its east side will be scheduled at a later date, as additional property acquisition is still needed, Merritt said.
Merritt said several communities in the region will be receiving sound walls, including Pinecrest Forest, Three Lakes East and Northpointe East. Construction on the sound walls cannot begin until utility relocation has been completed in the area because deep drilling is required for the structural integrity of the sound walls.
"TxDOT conducted noise studies along the proposed Grand Parkway path," she said. "For those areas that met the criteria for elevated noise levels, plans for sound walls have been included in the proposed design plan. Construction of the sound walls will be coordinated in the schedule as work permits."
Construction at the I-45 interchange began in July of last year. Merritt said the intersection would feature three layers, with I-45 at the bottom, two eastbound and westbound frontage roads in the middle and the four main lanes of the Grand Parkway on top.
The interchange will feature two direct connectors—from southbound on I-45 to westbound on the Grand Parkway and from eastbound on the Grand Parkway to northbound on I-45—that are planned for completion by the end of 2015, Merritt said.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack said he spoke with TxDOT about the feasibility of a westbound to northbound I-45 connector. Noack said TxDOT found some errors in its initial traffic estimates for the project, and he estimates the connector will be required by 2031 rather than 2038, the initial projection. However, TxDOT will not be funding the project as part of the initial phase of construction at the Grand Parkway and I-45.
"They are looking at putting in a sweeping turn lane on the frontage road so [traffic] wouldn't have to stop," he said.
It is unknown when beams will be placed over I-45 main lanes, however Merritt said that portion of the project would be completed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid peak traffic times. There has already been some reduction of main lanes at night and some frontage road closures, she said.
"Especially at I-45—which is a major artery—it is absolutely a goal [to have] as little impact to traffic as possible," Merritt said. "While there will be some reduction of lanes, it will take place at night."
The date for the completion of the Hwy. 249 and I-45 interchange is unknown, but all three segments of the project—F-1 from Hwy. 290 to Hwy. 249, F-2 from Hwy. 249 to I-45, and G from I-45 to Hwy. 59—will open concurrently some time late in 2015, Merritt said. All 38 miles will be an electronically monitored tollway that motorists can pass through using state-issued toll tags. She said the Harris County Tollroad Authority would set the toll rates, which will be consistent with Sam Houston Parkway.
Merritt said the first quarter of 2014 will see significant construction along other major thoroughfares between the three segments. The interchanges at Hwy. 290, Hwy. 249, I-45 and Hwy. 59 have all already broken ground.