Expected completion of the $9.8 million Hwy. 105 median project between Conroe and Montgomery has been delayed by the Texas Department of Transportation until at least the fourth quarter of 2023—six months later than the original date of June—according to a February update from TxDOT.

Public Information Officer Emily Black said the delay is attributed to material shortages of cement. The project is 51% complete.

“A project that could have been very streamlined was not and is going to be an easy target for a lot of anger,” Shannan Reid, director of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview. “We need to be able to get back to normal.”

TxDOT began the Hwy. 105 project in October 2021. Black said the project is expected to improve mobility and decrease crash and traffic problems. TxDOT recorded 350 crashes on Hwy. 105 within the project limits of FM 2854 and I-45 in 2022 as of Dec. 12.
Rebecca Huss, president of the Montgomery Economic Development Corp., said in an interview that mobility is important to the city of Montgomery as it grows.

“Getting traffic flow back to normal is a goal shared by TxDOT and the city,” Montgomery Director of Planning and Development Dave McCorquodale said in an email. “The city understands and appreciates the frustration that the median installation project has had on local residents and the negative effect the project has had on local businesses.”

Scott Harper, president of the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview that a major concern for the Conroe area is the way businesses are affected by the construction. For example, customer traffic may be rerouted around businesses via relief routes to avoid construction.

“With [FM] 2854, people using those opportunities for better traffic flow are driving past these businesses where they would have stopped for gas or something to eat,” Harper said. “There’s some trickle down effects I believe.”

A growing corridor

Black said the Hwy. 105 project entails installing a raised median barrier from FM 2854 to I-45, pavement widening for right-turn lanes, installing traffic signals and pavement widening for U-turns.

“The proposed improvements are expected to improve safety, reduce crashes, improve traffic operations by better planning how vehicles move through the corridor,” she said.

Data from TxDOT shows from 2017-22 there were 1,414 crashes on Hwy. 105 within the project limits. Of these, 39 crashes caused serious injuries and 12 were fatal. From 2017 to 2022 there was a 27.27% increase in crashes within the project limits.

Similarly, according to the Traffic Count Database System from TxDOT, the intersection of FM 2854 and Hwy. 105 recorded an annual daily average count of 7,632 vehicles in 2021—a 5.77% increase from 2017. Traffic counts also show an annual daily average count of 35,037 vehicles on Hwy. 105 west of Loop 336, which is a 16.02% increase from 2017-21.
Along with traffic, a spring 2021 demographic study for Montgomery ISD by demographics firm Population and Survey Analysts reported the Hwy. 105 corridor is projected to add the most new homes in a 10-year period—compared to the FM 149 and FM 1488 corridors—including the 269-acre Pine Lake Cove that had 691 lots planned at the time of the study.

A similar study by PASA released in December 2022 for Conroe ISD found housing starts within the district overall increased 127% from 2016, when 1,981 starts were recorded, and a 210% increase from 2012 as of the report.

Redoing the road

Black said the project will be completed in 13 phases. She said some projects already completed include permanent traffic signals at FM 2854 and Hwy. 105, and adding raised medians from FM 2854 to South Pine Lake Road and from McCaleb Road to Old Hwy. 105.

Projects to still be completed along the corridor include additional raised medians that will lead from FM 2854 to I-45, widening right-turn lanes and restriping the project limits once complete.

The project has faced a series of setbacks and delays due to material shipment delays, Black said. Specifically, a shortage of cement and design changes made by the city of Montgomery have contributed to the delays. According to McCorquodale, the city and Montgomery Economic Development Corp. requested TxDOT add pavers to the medians, believing pavers might be more readily available than concrete and would mean faster completion of the project.

McCorquodale said the city was informed TxDOT approved the request and was working on the change at no cost to the city. The request did not alter the layout or number of median segments; it only changed the material TxDOT used to fill the medians with.

However, Black said the price is expected to increase to account for the pavers. TxDOT began installing the pavers Feb. 10, she said.

There are other TxDOT projects planned to the west on Hwy. 105 that Montgomery officials believe will also benefit the city and its future growth. From Mount Mariah Road to FM 149, TxDOT plans to improve traffic flow along Hwy. 105 and reduce the number of traffic accidents by widening the existing two-lane roadway to four divided lanes and adding an access road, a turnaround and a shared-use pathway.

"We have been working on that project [located at FM 149] I want to say for eight years from the point of when we first started looking at land acquisition,” Huss said.

Construction is slated to begin in summer 2025 with a two-and-a-half-year timeline, according to previous Community Impact reporting.

The project is estimated to cost approximately $120.5 million.

TxDOT also has a project on Hwy. 105 east of I-45 from 10th Street to South Loop 336. According to a Feb. 1 update from TxDOT, the $51.8 million project is slated to start in March and consists of reconstructing lanes and widening the road to four lanes. A similar $88.92 million project is also planned to begin in March between South Loop 336 and FM 1484.

Challenging businesses

As the Hwy. 105 construction drags on, Huss said businesses have expressed frustration. She said a major part of the project to increase safety is reducing the amount of left-hand turns by implementing a raised median. However, entities that require customers to cross the road and turn left for access are suffering.

“It’s really hard to put together a big project, especially things that disrupt people’s lives because you are under pressure to get it done as quickly as possible, but do a great job [while] spending people’s money wisely,” Huss said.

Barbara Johnson, owner of R & B Window Fashions in Montgomery off Hwy. 105 said in an interview she does not understand the purpose of adding a raised median. Johnson said the business has received calls from clients unable to turn into the storefront, and she does not believe a solution to traffic is cutting off businesses on the left side.

Cvanna Bowman, a sales associate with Sweet Texas Treasures Boutique off Hwy. 105, said she, too, has had trouble with business since Hwy. 105 construction began. Bowman said the construction has hurt the business because the construction requires customers to make a U-turn into the business’s parking lot.

“[Customers] having to turn around and not knowing the highway, they have been passing us up a lot and they just choose not to come in because the traffic is so crazy,” Bowman said in an interview.

As such, Reid said business owners along Hwy. 105 have expressed anecdotally that TxDOT has not kept them in mind while engineering the project.

“Our businesses feel handicapped that they can’t make an impact,” Reid said. “In a collective voice we are saying [to TxDOT] you can’t railroad all of our businesses into the ground; this isn’t going to work.”