County commissioner sees ‘clear path to removal’ of flyover road tolls at Hwy. 242 and I-45 interchange

A 2005 bond package provided $34 million to build the flyovers, which opened in 2015. The county has collected $118 million and expect $56.5 million more. The tolls generate $1.3 million annually.

A 2005 bond package provided $34 million to build the flyovers, which opened in 2015. The county has collected $118 million and expect $56.5 million more. The tolls generate $1.3 million annually.

Years after the 2015 opening of tolled flyover roads connecting I-45 and Hwy. 242, Montgomery County may be on the brink of removing fees for motorists traveling along the viaducts.

After county commissioners failed to move on the issue in May of last year, County Judge Mark Keough brought the topic of removal to an April court session. Keough said the roads are both overwhelmingly unpopular and now create congestion around the area’s medical hub as drivers clog adjacent service roads to avoid tolling.

“By removing the tolls, I believe we’ll be able to remove much of the traffic jam that is there,” Keough said at the April 9 meeting.

Commissioners at the April meeting were generally in favor of taking out the tolls, but expressed concern over whether the county or TxDOT would end up with liability for the maintenance of the flyovers after removal. Commissioners also questioned whether removal could affect either the construction of a third flyover planned at the junction, or the county’s $17.4 million in pass-through toll revenue expected from TxDOT late this year.

Commissioners voted 3-2 against removal due to the uncertainty surrounding the measure at the time, but Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack announced in an April 18 statement that he expects “a clear path to removal” of the tolls after consulting with a TxDOT engineer.

TxDOT said in late April that removal discussions were ongoing, “but no decision has been made at this point,” according to spokesperson Emily Black.

Noack’s office said in the statement that the county would not need TxDOT’s approval to get rid of the tolls, and that future projects and revenue would not be affected. Noack’s office said in April it was still awaiting an answer from TxDOT regarding maintenance responsibilities.

“Commissioner Noack has confirmed with TXDOT what I have been saying from the beginning of the conversation. TXDOT will assume maintenance of the 242 flyovers if we remove the tolls,” Keough said in an email. “What has also been re-affirmed is that future road projects will not be in jeopardy if the tolling ceases.”

The $34 million flyovers, which opened in 2015, are the product of a bond package approved by voters in 2005. The county bonds initially paid for the ramps using pass-through financing, in which local jurisdictions fund relevant state highway projects upfront and are later repaid by tolling and TxDOT. The transportation department has since sent the county nearly $118 million in pass-through program dollars, and will pay an additional $56.47 million in the coming years, according to Noack's office.

Keough said the tolls generate an estimated $1.3 million annually, which was sent to the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority rather than the county itself. Collecting the funds for a third flyover through the current tolling system could take over a decade, and Keough said he believes that money from outside the county should fund work on the state and federal roadways.

“The revenue generated from the flyovers generates a fraction of what is needed to solve our mobility problem,” he said. “However we get there, the removal of the tolls at 242 is a victory for the citizens of Montgomery County.”
By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 and is a reporter for The Woodlands edition.


Houston Methodist researchers conducted a 25-patient trial in March and April to examine the safety of convalescent plasma transfusions as a possible treatment for COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Methodist)
Greater Houston-area health systems examine plasma transfusion as possible COVID-19 treatment

The experimental therapy involves the transfer of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to those who are currently symptomatic.

Each eligible child will receive $285 in benefits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Some Texas students eligible for one-time federal benefit to aid with food purchases

Texas received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in pandemic food benefits.

Montgomery County commissioners criticized the lawsuit between Conroe Mayor Toby Powell and two tax officials of the county. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Montgomery County commissioners criticize Conroe Mayor Powell's lawsuit against tax officials

Montgomery County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador called the lawsuit a “political posturing move.”

The Woodlands Pride has canceled its festival for Sept. 26. (Courtesy The Woodlands Pride)
The Woodlands Pride cancels annual festival due to coronavirus concerns

The nonprofit said it plans to celebrate Pride in the fall either through virtual events or small events.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke to members of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on May 27 about what the state's post-pandemic economic turnaround might look like. (Screenshot of May 27 virtual luncheon)
Texas comptroller predicts slow, steady economic turnaround post-pandemic

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the state entered the era of the coronavirus in a healthy financial situation, which bodes well for the future as reopening continues, but that Texans are not out of the woods yet.

Nursing facilities across Texas will be able to apply for federal funds to purchase devices to connect residents to friends and family. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces $3.6 million project to connect nursing home residents to families

Gov. Greg Abbott announced May 27 that $3.6 million will be provided to nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams and headphones to connect residents with family members.

The industry has had to shift to more virtual open houses, which has brought both advantages and disadvantages. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County real estate market takes hit in April; real estate industry goes virtual

Between May 5-11, the Greater Houston area had 241 virtual open houses that drew 1,330 attendees.

Voters are encouraged to bring their own equipment in order to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus.(Graphic by Matthew T. Mills /Community Impact Newspaper)
State of Texas releases voter health checklist for polling stations in June and July

Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs released a checklist May 26 for voters to follow to help prevent the spread of coronavirus at polls.

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack announced his plan to give $500 stimulus checks to homeowners. (Courtesy James Noack)
Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack proposes plan for $65 million return through CARES Act

A plan will be submitted for Montgomery County property owners to be able to apply for a $500 stimulus check later this summer.

Montgomery City Council met virtually May 26. (Community Impact staff)
Montgomery may see less than 30% drop in sales tax revenue due to coronavirus, city official says

City Administrator Richard Tramm briefly spoke about the pandemic's effects on the city's budget.

Owners Bradley Bailey and Makenzie Rankin will open Galavant's Coffee in June. (Courtesy Galavant's Coffee)
Galavant's Coffee cart coming to downtown Conroe

The business is also open to private events and weddings.