In a March 5 meeting with Montgomery County stakeholders, the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition voted to endorse the $350 million mobility bond election scheduled for May 9.
During the meeting, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, former state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and Nelda Blair, Road Bond Committee co-chairwoman, discussed the mobility bond referendum with tea party coalition board members.
Noack said he supports the bond proposal but expressed reservations about the inclusion of the 6-mile Woodlands Parkway extension from FM 2978 to Hwy. 249.
"We agree there are so many road projects that we need to undertake that voting this bond down isn't going to do anything but put us further behind," Noack said. "I don't want to see that happen. I want to make sure if nothing else when I walk out of here, I don't want there to be any ambiguity on where I stand on this bond issue. We need to pass the bond."
Noack said due to the importance of the bond, he believes the Woodlands Parkway extension project should be left off of the ballot. Noack proposed tabling the extension project until another road bond can be held in two to three years.
"It is unfathomable for us to be put into a position where there is a chance of this bond failing, and unfortunately one project has the potential to stop us in our tracks," Noack said. "The plan is to come back to the voters. The plan is in two or three years to go back to the voters for another $300 million bond. If that's the case, let's table this one divisive issue today."
However, Doyal said the Woodlands Parkway extension will provide necessary mobility relief in Precinct 2. Doyal said his interpretation of the two commissioned roadway studies regarding the extension differs from the input expressed by those who oppose the extension.
"A firestorm has been created that really was based on false information," Doyal said. "Based on the engineering reports, I just don't see the issue in terms of traffic. The bridges at Kuykendahl [Road] and the Gosling [Road] widening will bring exponentially more traffic to Woodlands Parkway. But [the extension] will allow another corridor east west to get traffic out. That is the whole key."
During the meeting, Toth expressed concern about the addition of future apartment complexes along FM 2978 that could potentially add more traffic to Woodlands Parkway. Doyal said the right of way property owned by Montgomery County along the planned Woodlands Parkway is near the Woodlane Forest subdivision and encompassing flood plain. The roadway extension is not likely to encourage the construction of apartment complexes in that area, he said.
Blair said if the bond fails due to the contention surrounding the Woodlands Parkway extension, an estimated 75 other Montgomery County road projects planned to be funded through the referendum could be taken down with it.
"What has to be done is to educate people as to why [the Woodlands Parkway extension] is not a killer of this entire bond issue and how important [the bond] is to the rest of the county," Blair said. "[We need] the people in The Woodlands who will listen to facts to get out and vote for this bond issue, and that is why we need [the tea party coalition's] endorsement."
Duane Ham, Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition chairman, said the board voted to support the bond because of its significance to the county as a whole.
"When you look at mobility issues around the county, we all know that we sit in traffic longer than we used to," Ham said. "There is no package that we can do big enough to tackle all of the issues. We need about $1.6 billion [for mobility] in Montgomery County so $350 million with no tax increase is a good start."
If approved by voters, the bond is not expected to raise property taxes, according to road bond committee officials. The additional debt accrued through the bond would repaid through increased revenue earned as the county continues to experience growth in population and tax revenue over the next few years, according to officials.
In other public meetings, The Woodlands Township Director Gordy Bunch has expressed opposition to the bond election because of a concern about the added traffic strain on Woodlands Parkway with the proposed extension. The members of the Texas Patriots Political Action Committee also oppose the bond and are not affiliated with the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition.
Blair said the Keep Montgomery County Moving PAC, which is an asset of the Montgomery County road bond committee, is mobilizing in support of the bond in the 60 days leading up to the election. The committee will meet at 11 a.m. at Conroe City Hall, 300 West Davis Street, Conroe, on March 11.