TxDOT plans to collect bids for HOV lane extension

Drivers along I-45 between FM 1960 and South Loop 336 in Conroe should see a little relief to the traffic congestion thanks to HOV managed lanes that are proposed to be open by early 2016.

The current congestion along I-45 causes concern for residents and the leaders of The Woodlands, partially because it leads drivers to overuse the feeder roads, The Woodlands Township Director Mike Bass said.

"When a highway gets that congested, the feeder roads become just an extension of the freeway and they equally get congested," he said.

The South Montgomery County Mobility Study determined that the stretch of I-45 between Conroe and the Hardy Toll Road carries 280,000 cars a day and then about 260,000 beyond the Hardy Toll Road. Bass added that the part of I-45 that sees 280,000 cars daily handles roughly 80,000 more than it is designed to accommodate.

"They expect that I-45 in the next 10 years or so could be looking at as close to 450,000 cars," he said.

One of the goals of the South County Mobility Study, which is being conducted by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, is to determine some north-south route alternatives to help with the congestion in addition to the HOV lanes planned by the Texas Department of Transportation, Bass said.

TxDOT spokeswoman Deidrea Samuels said the state will begin accepting bids on the lane extension in March 2015 with the hope that the project would be completed in either the final quarter of 2015 or the first quarter of 2016.

"That's if everything runs on schedule," Samuels said.

Officials from The Woodlands inquired with TxDOT about possibly moving up the project's timeline.

"Most people look at that and say, 'Well, why can't they just open it? The lane's there,'" Bass said. "Well, the problem is, there's a few areas where there are abutments that reach out into that lane, so they have to do some redesign there. What we've been told is, it'll be 2015 before that's done, and probably not any sooner than that."

When the HOV lanes open, they won't fix all of the mobility issues on I-45, but they should help, Bass said.

"For every lane that you open, the design capacity for that lane should be about 22-, 25,000 cars," he said. "So, it will help some, but it won't totally solve the problem."

Samuels said extending the HOV lane through the area would allow drivers who are in existing HOV lanes to continue, which should help with the flow of traffic.

Alan Clark, director of transportation planning for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, said he hopes people will be able to drive in the HOV lanes no later than 2016.

"It's going to save a fair amount of time, and of course, everyone who uses that lane is not sitting in the [other lanes], so it even helps the people who are not carpooling or using transit," Clark said. "But I don't want anybody to think it's going to open up and people will be able to drive without congestion the next day."

He said he hopes having the HOV lanes will encourage people to rideshare or use public transportation.

"The idea is, let's try to give a priority to moving more people as opposed to moving more vehicles," Clark said.


Main Chick Hot Chicken opened its first brick-and-mortar location July 23 in Sugar Land. (Courtesy Main Chick Hot Chicken)
Main Chick Hot Chicken opens in Sugar Land; Urban Bird Hot Chicken coming to Cy-Fair and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news for the Houston area, including two new chicken restaurants.

Tomball ISD will offer free meals to all student this upcoming academic year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Tomball ISD to offer free meals for all students in 2021-22

Households will not need to apply for the Free and Reduced-price Meal program to be eligible.

The restaurant serves American favorites as well as a brunch menu. (Courtesy Federal American Grill)
Federal American Grill coming to Oak Ridge North in 2022

Federal American Grill is opening in The Woodlands in spring 2022.

Houston-area residents will be able to apply online for a one-time payment of $1,500 from July 28-Aug. 11. (File photo)
$30M COVID Relief Fund opens for Harris County residents as eviction moratorium ends

Sourced by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, eligible residents will receive a one-time payment of $1,500 to support urgent needs.

Exterior of Alan B. Sadler Commissioners Court building
Montgomery County officials discuss employee raises on first day of budget workshops

Montgomery County commissioners debated the possibility of a 5% raise in salaries across the board as a priority for the 2021-22 fiscal year budget.

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center is expanding a waiting area. (Courtesy Memorial Hermann)
Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center to expand overflow waiting room

The extra space will be created by enclosing a portion of the ambulance bay.

Pride Houston Parade
Pride Houston fall parade and festival canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

The downtown annual parade and festival, scheduled for Sept. 25, will be replaced by a Montrose block party and other events, organizers announced July 25.

The CDC reversed its masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals in response to the transmissibility of the delta variant of COVID-19 in a press conference July 27. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
NEW CDC GUIDANCE: All individuals should wear masks in K-12 schools, including those who are fully vaccinated

The new CDC guidance, announced July 27, also recommends people in areas with "high" or "substantial" levels of transmission wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

(Courtesy El Mariachi Mexican Bar and Grill)
El Mariachi Mexican Bar and Grill coming to Rayford Road

The restaurant is anticipated to open some time in the third quarter of this year.

Eva Clawson, director of finance for Oak Ridge North, presented a financial report July 26. 
(Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Oak Ridge North revenue reaching prepandemic levels

Eva Clawson, director of finance for Oak Ridge North, presented a financial report detailing a revenue of $3.6M for the current fiscal year.

Vibrant church is undergoing an expansion. (Courtesy Vibrant Church)
Vibrant Church in The Woodlands doubling facility space in expansion

The church is expanding to accommodate a larger amount of people.