Plans for the long-awaited construction of a third direct connector from I-45 North to eastbound Hwy. 242 were unresolved following a lengthy discussion on June 4 as Montgomery County commissioners debated how to fund the project.

How we got here

In May 2022, the court agreed to take responsibility for the construction of the third direct connector from the northbound lanes after tolls were removed from the existing direct connectors on the southbound lanes of I-45 and the westbound lanes of Hwy. 242.

According to previous Community Impact reporting, the cost to build the third direct connector was estimated at $14.9 million in 2022. However, a May 28 letter from the Texas Department of Transportation showed the cost to build the direct connector in 2024 has risen to $19.1 million.

In the same letter, TxDOT officials told the county the project was scheduled to begin bidding in August, but it would be taken off the 2024 letting schedule if the funding was not allocated by the county before Aug. 2.

The options

Montgomery County Budget Director Amanda Carter said the county has $13.4 million available in revenue tolls and old pass-through funds. The additional $5.7 million needed would be pulled from a variety of funding sources, including commissioner road and bridge funds, she said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said he would be against using fund balance and contingency funds to pay for the construction of a road, and he advocated for the issuance of $20 million in certificates of obligation, or COs. COs are a funding mechanism available to local governments as a short-term loan—less than 40 years—that does not require voter approval.

John Robuck, managing financial advisor for BOK Financials and the county's advisor for bonds and special projects, said the process for obtaining COs would take up to 75 days from start to finish.

Quotes of note

“We believe [the county] has the cash flow, so we don’t need to incur the debt,” Carter said.

“We’ve got a time crunch on this project; they are going to let this in August,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said. “If we miss August, we may be waiting another year to start this.”

“We need to make a commitment to do it and figure out how we're going to get the money,” County Judge Mark Keough said.

What happens next?

Commissioners Court is scheduled to meet again on June 18, and commissioners opted to defer a final decision on the funding source until then. No decision was made to fund the construction, but Keough said he would send a letter to TxDOT stating the county would fund the project and send notice once a funding source was identified.