TxDOT considers removing Grand Parkway segments from development plan

Economic development and city officials were surprised and disappointed to learn the Texas Department of Transportation as of mid-July has proposed removing Segments B-C and projects associated with Segment D of the Grand Parkway from its 10-year plan to guide transportation projects, a move that would at least delay the projects.

The Grand Parkway, or Hwy. 99, is the partially built “third loop” through several counties around Houston. Segment D runs from I-10 to Hwy. 59, Segment C would run from Hwy. 59 to Hwy. 288, and Segment B would run from Hwy. 288 to I-45.

Segment D is already constructed, but TxDOT had plans to widen that portion of the Grand Parkway from four to six lanes starting around 2025. Interchanges, direct connectors and other work associated with Segment D are also in jeopardy, according to TxDOT documents.

Segment A, which is not poised for removal, would run through League City from I-45 to Hwy. 146, which heads north to link up with other portions of the Grand Parkway. However, despite being on Grand Parkway maps, Segment A has not been considered a “viable project” for some time, according to TxDOT’s website.

TxDOT’s draft 2020 Unified Transportation Program will guide what transportation projects it develops over the next decade. The draft includes removal of toll road projects, including the $1.28 billion Segments B-D of the Grand Parkway.

“This has caught all of us by complete surprise,” wrote Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. “Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation declined to comment about the rationale behind the move, only saying the public still has the opportunity to comment before an Aug. 29 vote.”

TxDOT did not provide to Community Impact Newspaper comment as to why the segments are being considered for removal from the UTP.

“TxDOT’s proposed 10-year project plan for 2020 is currently in the public comment phase. This means it is still being discussed, and the public has the opportunity to provide input before the Texas Transportation Commission votes on it in August,” TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer wrote in an email.

The League City City Council on July 9 passed a resolution urging the TTC, which governs TxDOT, to include Segment B in TxDOT’s UTP and complete a traffic study, land acquisition, design and construction. The Galveston County Commissioners Court, BAHEP and other entities around Houston have also encouraged the development of the parkway.

“There is no doubt in my mind that these delays will negatively affect mobility and will stifle commerce and economic development. More importantly, however, the delays will put the citizens of Galveston, Brazoria and Fort Bend counties at greater risk as they attempt to evacuate from future hurricanes that will strike the upper Texas Gulf Coast,” Mitchell wrote in a letter to Peter Smith, TxDOT’s transportation planning and programming director.

State legislators have also spoken out in favor of convincing TxDOT to keep the project, which has been in discussion since the 1960s, on the books. During evacuations, it is nearly impossible for Bay Area residents to move west away from storms and hurricanes, and the Grand Parkway would help alleviate that, said state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood.

Taylor later said in a Facebook post he has been working with the TTC and is confident the segments will remain in the UTP.

State Rep. Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, said the Grand Parkway is necessary in areas containing the Port of Houston and petrochemical plants to improve transportation. She also encouraged residents to contact TxDOT.

“That’s the best defense we have. Drive them crazy,” she said.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry also encouraged residents to urge TxDOT to include the segments in the UTP. Delaying the projects would hurt the county, especially considering the risk during storms, he said.

Residents can submit comments at www.txdot.gov; in person at TxDOT’s local district offices; by email at tpp_utp@txdot.gov; by phone at 800-687-8108; or by mailing Texas Department of Transportation, attn: Peter Smith, P.O. Box 149217, Austin, TX 78714.

Residents have until Aug. 12 to submit public comments.
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