Five projects are planned or underway along Hwy. 105 in Montgomery County to improve traffic congestion and safety along the corridor, which has seen a spike in traffic and crashes since 2012, according to Texas Department of Transportation data.

Four of the five Hwy. 105 projects being constructed by TxDOT will widen the road, add center turn lanes and upgrade the roadway surface. The fifth project—underway since Oct. 4—will add medians, landscaping and other improvements from FM 2854 to I-45, according to TxDOT information. Although upcoming construction may shut down lanes, Michael Beitler, engineer for Montgomery County Precinct 1, said he believes the projects will be worth the improvements in traffic flow and safety.

“Unfortunately on any construction project, it’s going to hinder traffic and make for a more hazardous situation during the construction, but it’s necessary to get the project done,” Beitler said.

Montgomery Mayor Sara Countryman said in an email that TxDOT is adding turn lanes at Hwy. 105 and FM 2854 and is anticipated to add turn lanes at Hwy. 105 and FM 149, alongside sidewalks from City Hall to Montgomery High School.

Montgomery Assistant City Administrator Dave McCorquodale said he believes it is important for the city to partner with TxDOT for Hwy. 105 projects to maintain sidewalks and infrastructure around construction while keeping up with the population growth.

“[Hwy. 105] is certainly the busiest road that we’ve got in the city, and it affects our daily lives and the quality of life and the safety of the residents here and the visitors here,” McCorquodale said.

Growing corridor

According to the American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2015 and 2020, Montgomery County’s population grew over 17%, or by 87,602 residents, during that time. The cities of Conroe and Montgomery similarly saw 39.12% and 193.87% growth over that time, respectively.

“Our city has tripled in population since the 2010 census, and certainly that adds to the number of cars in and around the city,” McCorquodale said.

Beitler said countywide population growth brings an increase in traffic and safety concerns.

“With the increase in population, there’s an increase in traffic volume, and with that comes an increase in crashes,” Beitler said.

Data from TxDOT shows there was an increase in average daily vehicles along Hwy. 105 from 2012-21 with a 19.44% rise in traffic just west of Jarell Drive, which is between FM 2854 and I-45, and a 23.8% increase just west of Whipporwill Road, which is between South Loop 336 and FM 1484.

Crashes are on the rise as well. Fatal crashes on Hwy. 105 in Montgomery County rose from four in 2012 to 10 in 2021, and the total number of crashes increased from 549 to 915 during that time, TxDOT data shows.

Countryman said the city has also seen more vehicles from outside the city driving through on Hwy. 105.

“The amount of traffic we see on a daily basis is increasing significantly. Last year a traffic study showed us that 500 18-wheelers come through our city at [Hwy.] 105 and [FM] 149 daily. That is a lot of wear and tear on the roads,” Countryman said. “We need more lanes to support the local and ‘drive-thru’ traffic.”

Planned improvements

Of the five TxDOT projects planned for Hwy. 105, four of them will widen Hwy. 105, add center turn lanes and upgrade the roadway surface.

The segments from 10th Street to South Loop 336 and from South Loop 336 to FM 1484 are both expected to be sent for construction bids in August and will cost $32.3 million and $78.4 million, respectively, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. The $81.4 million portion from FM 1484 to the San Jacinto County line will be bid in October.

The project the farthest west from FM 149 to the Grimes County line will cost $91.64 million, but there is no timeline for the project, according to TxDOT Public Information Officer Emily Black.

"The current roadway is a two-lane asphalt surface being upgraded to four-lane continuously reinforced concrete pavement with a center left turn lane due to age, road condition and increased traffic counts,” Black said in an email.

The fifth project between FM 2854 and I-45 includes adding raised medians, sidewalks and landscaping, and upgrading traffic signals. The $9.83 million project started Oct. 4 and is expected to finish in the third quarter of 2022, according to TxDOT information. Black said the changes are needed to improve safety due to high traffic counts.

Tommy Woolley, Conroe’s director of capital projects and transportation, said the city of Conroe has coordinated with TxDOT on areas on the west side of I-45 for future landscaping and raised medians on Hwy. 105 between I-45 and FM 2854 as well as putting $2.84 million into coordinating with TxDOT’s projects on the east side through the city.

“We’ve been partnering with TxDOT and going over stuff with them about the utilities because we have water [and] sewer lines in that area,” Woolley said in an interview. “We’ve had coordination meetings with [TxDOT] going over where the water lines are and how we’re going to relocate.”

Business impact

One concern businesses have is the addition of raised medians due to the lack of accessibility they create, according to Stowe Collision Repair owner Linda Stowe.

“If they put a median in, I think that would hurt me for people to have to go out of their way to get here,” Stowe said.

While raised medians may cause trouble for businesses on Hwy. 105, Marvin Spanier, Conroe resident and owner of laundry service The Chute, said he believes improvements—such as the speed limit reduction implemented about five years ago—have already made Hwy. 105 a better place for business.

“[Hwy.] 105 is a whole lot safer than it was about 13 years ago,” Spanier said. “Just slowing that speed limit down to 55 has really helped, ... and I really enjoy it for the safety of me, my wife, our customers. They can get in and out a lot easier, and it’s a lot safer when they pull out than it used to be.”

Spanier said he has noticed the difference in safety in front of his own stores. When he owned TLC Cleaners—which was also located on Hwy. 105—in 2009 and the speed limit was still 70 mph, he said a man died in a car crash right outside of his store. Now, Spanier said the only crash he has seen by The Chute since it opened in March 2021 was a truck clipping a trailer while speeding.

As traffic has increased, Washington Revelo, owner of the Bar Lago coming to Montgomery in June, said Hwy. 105 remains one of the best locations for a business, especially with Lake Conroe nearby as a hub for growth.

“I think that the growth that’s going on in the area is a good thing ... for the community,” Revelo said. “I can see how maybe the local people might see it as a little invasive, but for us, coming in and bringing in new concepts in the area, I think it’s exciting, and I think the city’s ready for it.”