More funding sources brought into ongoing Harris County mobility study, increasing stakes for future road projects

Work wrapped up on a Huffmeister Road extension project in Harris County Precinct 4 in 2018.

Work wrapped up on a Huffmeister Road extension project in Harris County Precinct 4 in 2018.

Harris County commissioners voted 4-1 at a July 30 meeting to broaden the funding sources at stake in an ongoing mobility needs assessment in the county to include about $120 million in annual toll road revenue and about $390 million in funding that remains from a $700 million mobility bond that passed in 2015.

The study, which county officials hope to have completed by March 2020, will be used to determine how mobility funds are split across the county's four precincts.

The assessment has been championed by the court's three Democratic members—County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia—who said the way mobility funds are currently split among the county's four precincts is too arbitrary and unfair to Precincts 1 and 2. The assessment will make the process more data driven, Hidalgo said.

Until the assessment is completed, the resolution also calls for temporarily splitting mobility funding evenly across each precinct. A similar measure was passed by the court earlier in July regarding sales tax revenue the county receives from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

Unlike the METRO funds, the toll road funds have already been distributed for fiscal year 2018-19 and will not be affected until the next fiscal year begins in March, officials said.

"The motion does not reallocate funds; it merely says that the mobility funds will all be part of the analysis that's being done," Hidalgo said.

Approximately $250 million in bond funds that have already been allocated are also locked in. However, any additional bond fund requests made by a commissioner before the study's completion will be subjected to an even split across precincts.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle was the only commissioner to oppose the measure, but both he and Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack expressed concerns about the potential redirection of funds away from their precincts. Cagle cited similar arguments made before the METRO funding vote, including that Precincts 3 and 4 are where the majority of growth is taking place.

"To, at this time, strangle the growth areas of the county and to divert [funding], midseason, without a chance of having public input and discussion and debate is not good stewardship," Cagle said at the July 30 meeting.

Cagle also pointed out Precinct 1 had more than $100 million in mobility funds leftover at the end of FY 2018-19 that rolled over. Precincts 2, 3 and 4 had an estimated $39 million, $30.5 million and $45 million in funds roll over, respectively, according to budget documents.

Cagle said he did not oppose the study, which he said would confirm the needs of Precinct 4. However, he requested a separate motion that would require the county engineer's office to have completed the study prior to the next budget cycle and would remove language about evenly splitting funds prior to the study's completion.

In an Aug. 1 interview, Radack said the idea of moving funds out of Precincts 3 and 4, which largely cover unincorporated Harris County, ignores growth projections and the role the city of Houston is supposed to play in funding mobility projects within the city.

"After the census, it will show that more people live in unincorporated Harris County than in the city of Houston," he said. "We need more roads. We have to accommodate the growth, and the growth outside of the city of Houston far, far exceeds the growth within the city of Houston."
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


MOST RECENT

Houston City Council passed a tax rate Oct. 21 of $0.56184 per $100 valuation for fiscal year 2020-21, a 1.07% reduction from the previous year’s tax rate of $0.56792 per $100 valuation. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Houston approves lower tax rate for fiscal year 2020-21 amid calls for further reductions

The rate may still result in an increase for some taxpayers with the average homestead property value rising about 4%.

The 2020 Bellaire Arts & Crafts Festival has been canceled. (Courtesy Pexels)
2020 Bellaire Arts & Crafts Festival canceled; spring iteration still a possibility

The culture and arts board brought back the festival from a 10-year hiatus in 2019.

Target has built out its new store at 2075 Westheimer Road, Houston. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Target to open fourth Inner Loop location and more Houston-area business, community news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Baylor College of Medicine is seeking volunteers for a COVID-19 study looking to determine the prevalence of the viral disease in the Houston area. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Baylor College of Medicine recruiting participants for COVID-19 prevalence study

The study will collect samples from 70,000 individuals nationwide.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston region in 2017. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Houston hydrologist explains climate change’s role in intensified flooding, importance of planning for future storms

“We’re looking at more intense and more frequent storms, and so, as a region, we’re going to need to think about that when we’re planning. We need to plan for that worst-case climate change [scenario].”

Some Harris County residents could be eligible for free workforce training. (Courtesy Lone Star College System)
Harris County partners with Lone Star College to offer free workforce training this fall

Furloughed, unemployed and underemployed Harris County residents could be eligible for one of 17 training programs.

The COVID-19 recession, which is considered to have started both domestically and globally in late February, is unlike any other economic downturn in recent history, one expert said: It could potentially be much longer-lasting than a traditional recession. (Courtesy Pexels)
Sales tax revenue rebounds in some Houston cities following COVID-19 shutdowns

While revenue data shows both positive and negative regional trends in 2020, experts said businesses must brace for more changes as the economy fluctuates.

Lanier Middle School
Houston ISD: 17 campuses close with confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19

The district's is reporting 90 total cases, including 10 cases among students, as of Oct. 20.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Greater Houston region faces glut of industrial, commercial space and multifamily housing

While the Greater Houston area has seen a glut of office space for the last six years, Patrick Jankowski said the industrial buildup has happened more in the past year and a half.

Bellaire City Council has decided against allocating $150,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funding to set up a small-business program. (Adobe Stock Photo)
Bellaire City Council holds off on business relief with CARES Act funding

Instead, council members agreed that the $1 million should remain in the general fund.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project proposes rerouting I-45 through the East End and Fifth Ward and expanding it through the Northside. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston-Galveston Area Council seeking feedback on I-45 project plans

Regional leaders are accepting feedback on which projects to fund alongside the I-45 overhaul.