Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said he is working on preliminary redesign plans for I-45. According to a May 25 news release, the changes will improve traffic flow and ease congestion between the exits for Rayford and Sawdust roads as well as the Grand Parkway. Noack received unanimous support from the Montgomery County Commissioners Court May 23 approving funding to begin the preliminary design of improvements on I-45 at the Hardy Toll Road.

The proposal

According to the news release, The Texas Department of Transportation is participating in the project and deems it a high-priority project. TxDOT is expected to perform a detailed traffic analysis and design visualization of the proposed ramp changes, according to the release.

According to Precinct 3 officials and discussion at the May 23 Commissioners Court meeting, the project would:
  • Revise the northbound and south ramps on I-45 

  • Elevate the Hardy Toll Road entrance and exit ramps over the Rayford/Sawdust exit
  • Potentially improve safety and reduce delays on I-45
  • Not change the Grand Parkway ramp
Quote of note: “There is not a roadway that brings in more people and commerce into Montgomery County than I-45,” Noack said in the release. “However, there is a choke point in south Montgomery County that creates a massive mess on main lanes and the frontage roads.”

The data

According to WSB, the engineering firm for the project, TxDOT’s high-level planning study over the past five years determined the most congested stretch on I-45 between Beltway 8 in Houston and South Loop 336 in Conroe is between the Hardy Toll Road and Woodlands Parkway.
  • Data from 2017 showed 250,000 vehicles per day travel that stretch.
  • It is estimated that 370,000 vehicles will travel that stretch per day by 2045
  • 270,000 vehicles travel between Woodlands Parkway and the Grand Parkway per day.
What's next

An initial investment of $980,000 is needed to begin the first study, according to discussion at Commissioners Court on May 23. Commissioners approved a motion to use pass-through funding or interest paid through the last road bond to get the project underway
  • Pass-through financing allows local communities to fund upfront costs for constructing a state highway project, which is later reimbursed over time.
  • The last road bond in 2015 was $280 million.
  • If pass-through funding is not available, the county will use interest from the bond and split the remaining cost four ways.
  • TxDOT increased its annual letting budget after finding over $1 billion in unfunded projects, which will be used for I-45 improvements after the initial study is completed.
  • The initial four-month study will include surveying, traffic data collection and utility investigations.
  • The study needs to be completed before TxDOT can conduct official traffic analysis and begin the design phase.