Officials back Grand Parkway progress, request completed traffic study

Segment B will stretch from Hwy. 288 in Brazoria County to I-45 in Galveston County. Construction has yet to start, but some characteristics are known.

Segment B will stretch from Hwy. 288 in Brazoria County to I-45 in Galveston County. Construction has yet to start, but some characteristics are known.

The League City City Council and the Galveston County Commissioners Court have issued resolutions encouraging the Texas Department of Transportation to look at a traffic and revenue study for Segment B of the Grand Parkway.

Segment B would run from Hwy. 288 to I-45 through Brazoria and Galveston counties and through League City. The segment is a part of the Grand Parkway, which is a third loop of toll roads running through several counties around Houston.

The discussion over Grand Parkway Segment B is starting up again as the deadline for the county to decide who has primacy for the project passed in January, said Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark, who requested the county’s resolution. The governing body with primacy over the project would design, construct and operate the toll road.

Clark does not believe the county will be held to the original deadline because TxDOT has not completed the traffic and revenue study.

“The county was waiting to see what the revenue study said before deciding if we wanted to move ahead with primacy or relinquish primacy,” Clark said. “Nobody builds a road without understanding the cost and revenue. I mean, that’s just basic business sense.”

Segment B is expected to be completed before Segment C, which would connect Segment B to the rest of the existing Grand Parkway. However, this could change, said TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez.

On one hand, the county and TxDOT need the population to support the project being built, which Segment B can already provide, Perez said.

“The growth is going to come, but it’s a matter of prioritizing money now or later,” he said.

On the other hand, it might not be as useful to build a toll segment that does not connect to the majority of the toll road, Perez said. This might make a difference in whether or not Galveston County asks for primacy, Clark said.

“TxDOT is generating some excess funds from the Grand Parkway system, and they can probably absorb lower ridership longer than the Galveston County taxpayers can,” Clark said.

For Segment B to be built, the traffic and revenue study has to be completed to determine if a toll road is viable. The study looks at growth patterns and traffic in the area to determine how much money a toll road would make were it to exist.

League City has surpassed the population estimates that had been set for 2019, League City City Manager John Baumgartner said. According to data from the United States Census Bureau, League City had nearly 105,000 residents in 2017.

If the traffic and revenue study did not determine the toll road would be completely viable, the city would have the option to financially support a portion of the toll road, Baumgartner said.

“We would hope that when TxDOT completes the traffic and revenue study, then they would find the corridor to be toll-viable,” Baumgartner said. “If the study says it is not toll feasible, then we as a community … will then have to make a decision if it is possible for us to close any shortfall that may exist.”

The toll road would provide traffic congestion relief, officials said. Both Baumgartner and Clark said the toll road would provide another evacuation route in case of an emergency like Hurricane Harvey.

“We have to look at the help it would provide to I-45 or Hwy. 288,” Perez said.

In League City, the toll road would not only provide east-to-west transportation, but it would also help determine how the west side of the city could further develop, Baumgartner said.

“It would influence pace of development and type of development we get,” Baumgartner said. “We are a growing suburb. We will probably be north of 110,000 [when the] next census comes out. It’s a good problem to have.”

On a larger scale, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in November 2017 asked for the state to halt the construction of toll roads, which Baumgartner believes might have halted toll road projects, including the Grand Parkway.

“We understand the toll/nontoll conversation is important,” Baumgartner said. “We would like every road in the state to be a nontoll facility, but there is no such thing as a free road.”
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By Haley Morrison

Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. In her tenure as a reporter, she has primarily written about education, health care and transportation.

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