To view the entire presentation, click here.
As of 2018, the intersection of Research Forest Drive and Grogans Mill Road has an average daily traffic count of 62,450 vehicles. The Houston-Galveston Area Council projects those volumes to increase to 78,300 vehicles by 2022, and to 117,500 in 2040. According to Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler, the intersection is the worst intersection in The Woodlands and the second worst countywide.
“This intersection is a bad intersection right now—not even just one intersection, actually it’s four intersections,” Council Member Byron Bevers said. “And it’s going to get worse. It’s one of the most dangerous intersections in this region.”
According to the study, the intersection was graded based on level of service using the following criteria:
A: delay of less than 10 seconds; free-flow traffic
B: delay of 10-20 seconds; reasonable free-flow
C: delay of 20-35 seconds; stable flow
D: delay of 35-55 seconds; approaching unstable flow
E: delay of 55-85 seconds; unstable flow
F: delay of more than 85 seconds; highly congested traffic conditions
As it exists today, the levels of service at various points in the intersection range from C to F. In hopes of providing relief to the roadways and improving mobility to the area, BGE studied the following eight potential projects:
- a no build
- an at-grade widening
- an underpass
- a single intersection (or “T” intersection)
- a two- or three-lane roundabout
- a Grogans Mill Road grade-separation with direct connectors (or an overpass)
- direct connectors
- a single-point urban interchange (or SPUI)
All projects were studied with an anticipated design by 2022. Since the study was released, the Shenandoah City Council, The Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1—which is sponsoring the project—Montgomery County Precinct 3 and The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce have all passed resolutions of support for the underpass solution. The Woodlands Township will consider approving a resolution of support at its next meeting, Oct. 18.
According to the study, the estimated cost of the underpass solution is $24.06 million. During the Sept. 25 Montgomery County Commissioners Court, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution of support and funding commitment for the H-GAC Transportation Improvement Program submittals within Montgomery County Precinct 3, which included the proposed Research Forest Drive underpass.
According to Wheeler, if the project comes to fruition, the majority of funding would come from either H-GAC, the Texas Department of Transportation or the WRUD, with little money coming from the county and no funding coming from Shenandoah. The intersection, although in close proximity to the city of Shenandoah, does not lie within city limits.
"We have letters of support from the WRUD, which is actually the sponsor of this project... and because they are willing to come in and sponsor this project and use some of their funds to pay for this project, the Montgomery County portion is only going to be $500,000 to $1 million, if [the project] is approved by the [H-GAC] TIP," Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said. "So not only is it much more cost-effective, it is going to improve mobility in the entire area."
During the commissioners court meeting, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark and Noack—whose jurisdictions all cover portions of Shenandoah—were all verbally supportive of the proposed underpass.The Research Forest Drive underpass was previously listed as a $14.3 million long-range project in the South County Mobility Study, completed by H-GAC and BGE in 2015, which was unanimously accepted by the sitting Shenandoah City Council at that time on Sept. 21, 2015.
Three of the same Shenandoah residents who opposed the underpass at the Sept. 12 Shenandoah City Council Meeting—Janeau Houston, Alex Warmath and former council member Jean Teague, also spoke of their opposition to the project at the Sept. 25 commissioners court meeting.
Riley and Noack were also verbally supportive of a resolution of support to keep Grogans Mill Road a two-lane road, rather than expanding it to four lanes as previously proposed in the 2015 South County Mobility Study, which has been a concern expressed by Shenandoah residents.
Bevers also presented his reasoning behind supporting the underpass.
"I believe the Research Forest [Drive] underpass is the least bad option for Shenandoah," Bevers said. "I believe that this project will likely be funded... if the project's funded and we've opposed it or we're silent, we don't have a seat at the table. And there's risks associated with this underpass that I think are important for us to mitigate, so it's important that we have a seat at the table."
To view his presentation, click here.
See how the options stacked up against each other, below:
This option would mean leaving the intersection as it is, at no additional cost. By 2022, the study showed the intersection's levels of services would each progress one grade lower than existing conditions.
This $4 million option would add one lane in each direction on both Research Forest Drive and Grogans Mill Road. Service levels in some areas of the intersection would improve, however the grades would continue to range from B to F.
This option would include the construction of a six-lane underpass on Research Forest Drive beneath Grogans Mill Road, converting the existing four intersections into two. The existing at-grade lanes would still be accessible in the event of the underpass flooding. The intersection's levels of service would range from A to B.