The possible removal of tolls from the Hwy. 242 flyovers and repairs to the Woodforest Parkway bridge were just a few items discussed by Montgomery County Commissioners Court Feb. 13.
All court members were in attendance. To view the entire Feb. 13 agenda, click here.
1. The court unanimously approved the granting of a discretionary exemption for repairs to the structural damage at the bridge at Woodforest Parkway.
The bridge has been damaged since the floods in May 2016 and was shut down completely by the Texas Department of Transportation in mid-January, after the bridge was identified as being “structurally unsound.”
Woodforest resident Christine Russell said the shut down of the bridge has left her neighborhood with only one way in and out of the neighborhood, and that road has also flooded three times in the past two years.
“This is really frustrating because this bridge has been damaged since May of 2016,” Russell said. “We’re coming into the rainy season again and [we only have] one way in and one way out and that [road has] flooded so dramatically that during Harvey, the road actually washed away. I’m really disappointed that nothing was done prior to this. It’s just a big impact to the people who live there in Woodforest.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said the county has been working to come to an agreement with Federal Emergency Management Agency to help fund the project since May 2016. However, those efforts have been futile because in order to receive aid from FEMA, the bridge would have to be built exactly as it was prior to the damage, which Riley said was a flawed design.
The granted discretionary exemption allows the county to award a contract without having to go out for bid to expedite the construction process. The project is estimated to cost $411,781.50.
“We can award the contracts today and are ready to start work,” Riley said. “We didn’t want to wait three or four months putting [the project] out for bid and going through that process. We knew we had to do it this way and that’s where we’re at now, so we’ll start work on this bridge immediately.”
2. The court discussed the possible removal of tolls from the Hwy. 242 flyovers.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark brought the item to the court’s attention, advocating for the removal of the tolls on the two flyovers between I-45 and Hwy. 242. Clark suggested that doing so would release the county from an obligation to fund 100 percent of a third flyover, included in a previous agreement with TxDOT.
“The flyover is paid for and I travel that road almost daily, and as I look down and see Hwy. 242 full of cars and just a handful of cars coming across the flyovers, I don’t feel like they’re getting utilized,” Clark said. “We do need a third flyover but if we go ahead and remove the tolls now, it will release us from that obligation [to fund 100 percent of it] and we could move forward with the current program where we would pay 20 percent and TxDOT would pay 80 percent.”
However, other commissioners disagreed with Clark on whether the removal of tolls would relinquish the county from the obligation, which had been previously agreed upon.
Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack asserted that he was the only court member who voted against the tolling of Hwy. 242 in 2015, and that Clark voted for the item.
“I would like to see these removed and I’m glad that [Clark has] come onboard in doing so, but I’m not sure it really has any meaningful impact on TxDOT moving forward with this project or not,” Noack said. “I think those are two separate items and I would be fully supportive of anything that we did as a court to remove that toll.”
No action was taken on the item; however, Clark said he would meet with TxDOT and bring back more information to the court at a future meeting.
3. The court unanimously approved an order changing the Election Day polling location in voting precinct 35 for the March 6 primary election.
Voting Precinct 35’s polling location has previously been held at the Robinson Road Community Center and at Oak Ridge High School; however, due to effects from Hurricane Harvey, the precinct’s new polling location will be the Oak Ridge North Municipal Building Council Chambers, located at 27424 Robinson Road, Oak Ridge North.
“I just want to thank you for working so hard to get this location moved,” Noack said. “We’re still dealing with post-Harvey issues and that facility is not available and I also want to thank the City of Oak Ridge North for letting us use their municipal building.”
For a complete list of early voting and Election Day polling locations, click here.
4. In a 4-1 vote, the court approved the funding for a new vehicle for Constable Precinct 2 Police Department for $26,025.50.
Noack voted against the item.
5. In a 4-1 vote, the court approved an additional funding of $7,149.17 of salary plus benefits for the remainder of FY 2018 for Montgomery County’s Information Technology Department for the position of Lead Business System Coordinator III, effective Feb. 24.
Noack voted against the item.