The Montgomery County Thoroughfare Plan outlines a 50-year foundation for mobility improvements as Montgomery County continues to develop and population grows.
Some projects will connect existing thoroughfares to ease traffic congestion, such as a planned extension of FM 1097 to FM 1486. Meanwhile, other projects would provide alternative options to I-45 for those traveling north or south between Conroe to Houston—such as proposed extensions of Gosling Road from The Woodlands to Old Danville Road in Willis and an extension of Kidd Road in Conroe to Aldine Westfield Road.
Montgomery County, the city of Conroe, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Department of Transportation collaborated on the plan to outline projects intended as guidelines for future roadway development. The original thoroughfare plan dates back to 1979 and has undergone four updates since it was originally drafted, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal said.
“The study team had been working with Montgomery County and the city of Conroe to produce the new map,” said Carlene Mullins, transportation planner for H-GAC. “We’ve had focus groups, and we went around to all four precincts and talked to the various cities, police departments, chambers of commerce, developers and school districts, and we received their input on where the problems were.”
There are a lot of missing roadway connections in Montgomery County, Mullins said.
“If there’s an accident on [I-45] and [I-45] shuts down, there’s no way to get to Conroe or to get to Houston,” Mullins said. “One of the objectives was to add missing links and roadways by just getting more roads that will take you from Harris County to Montgomery County without having to use [I-45].”
Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador said north-south corridors are needed in the area but road construction projects addressing those needs may be years away.
“North-south of course is the major corridor, but I don’t see anything in the near future that is going to get us around that being the major corridor [of need],” Meador. “Years from now, a possibility may be a parallel toll road that would take pressure off I-45 like Katy Tollway.”
Doyal said the thoroughfare plan can also outline areas of future growth for developers and residents.
“It is important that the public become informed,” he said. “[The plan] does exist. I heard people saying that in the [May mobility] bond they didn’t know it existed. It has been used numerous times for rights of way.”
Some of the significant challenges to the plan include railroad tracks, I-45 and the San Jacinto River because of its floodplain.
Mullins said the group recorded public input—a period that ended Dec. 4—and designed a corridor map of areas that need to be studied.
Since the county requested an updated study more than a year ago, the group has added many roads, Mullins said. The MCTP guides future developments and provides the public and developers with the information they need to proceed with projects.
“It is a 50-year plan that will help the way Montgomery County will want to be developed,” Mullins said.
Meador said the proposed thoroughfares will be a challenge to fund.
“Most of them are impossible,” he said. “Thoroughfare plans are good: it shows you where your growth is going to be and some mobility issues, but you still have to have the money to do the projects.”
Meador said he is hopeful that rapid population growth provides the county with enough funds to build some of the proposed thoroughfares.
“It is possible that with the growth that we are seeing now, it puts more money in the coffers, and over the next period of 10 years, we can accumulate some money to make some of those projects work,” Meador said.
Doyal said developers and the county will work together using the MCTP to determine construction. Additionally, the MCTP gives the county an advantage in attracting funding from private developers and federal grants with identified projects in place as well as serving as a planning tool for future bond issues.
The plan will be presented to the Commissioners Court by the end of the year.
“I am tickled to death the [November] bond issue passed, and we’re ready to go,” Doyal said. “Now it’s time to get to work.”