Widening FM 646 and another section of Hwy. 146 are among the projects the Texas Department of Transportation is prioritizing in the Bay Area.

During a Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership meeting March 22, TxDOT engineer Eliza Paul shared details on some of the local projects the organization is focusing on in the coming years.

The widening of Hwy. 146 through Seabrook and Kemah will be complete by the end of the year, but soon, another section of the road will be widened. This May, TxDOT will begin accepting contractor bids for a Hwy. 146 widening project from FM 518 to Dickinson Bayou, Paul said.

The project will widen the road from four to six lanes and is expected to cost $177.8 million and take three years to complete. The project includes new sidewalks and bridges, according to Paul.

FM 646 from west of Hwy. 3 to Hwy. 146 will also be widened from two to four lanes with a raised median. The project will go to bid in May 2024 and will cost $72 million and take two years to complete, Paul said.

The bridge connecting Pelican Island to Galveston Island will also be reconstructed at a cost of $118.4 million. The three-year project will go to bid in July 2025, Paul said.

When it comes to planning future projects, TxDOT is still considering the Grand Parkway. Segment B from Hwy. 288 to I-45 has been approved for construction and is expected to go to bid in the next two or three years, Paul said.

“That one Is actually going to go out the door pretty quick,” she said.

TxDOT officials are still looking for the best way to connect the Grand Parkway from I-45 to Hwy. 146, which would be known as Segment A, Paul said.

Most of the area where Segment A could go are fully developed, so it is a challenge to find a path for Segment A that would disrupt as few businesses and residences as possible, but TxDOT is studying the problem, Paul said.

Paul said these major projects are a direct response to the rapid growth in Texas and the Greater Houston area.

In 2010, Texas had about 25.15 million residents. As of 2020, it was 29.15 million—a growth of 15.9%. Every day, 1,000 people are added to Texas’ population, making it one of the fastest-growing states in terms of population, Paul said.

Congestion affects travel times and costs for freight and commuters, making it a priority of TxDOT’s to reduce congestion, Paul said.

“We need to do something about it,” she said.

TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program is a 10-year plan to figure out what road projects across the state have funding and are ready to move down the pipeline toward construction. This year, TxDOT’s UTP includes $116.9 billion in funding, including maintenance and planning, and the 2024 UTP is looking to be upwards of $140 billion, Paul said.

“What that means is we can put more projects in the pipeline to be funded,” she said.