Road congestion spurred by Cy-Fair’s growing population costs the community thousands of hours and millions of dollars, according to a 2017 study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. County and state agencies have several projects in the works to address these needs.
The Texas Department of Transportation and Harris County are funding numerous current and future projects that aim to alleviate the congestion on Cy-Fair roads, such as improvements to FM 1960 and Hwy. 290, but other measures—like an increase in public transportation options—may also be needed, experts said.
Alan Clark, Houston-Galveston Area Council’s director of transportation planning, said much of the congestion in the north Houston area can be attributed to residential traffic, but a good portion of it is commercial traffic, which Clark said he believes is the result of a successful economy and an international port nearby.
“Our level of investment needs to be increased in everything we are doing,” Clark said. “The amount of growth we are expecting means we will have to add a lot of additional capacity.”
The TTI‘s 2017 list of the state’s 100 most congested roadways places the stretch of FM 1960 from Hwy. 249 to Hwy. 290 as the 50th most congested, and the stretch of Hwy. 290 from Beltway to Hwy. 6 is ranked No. 45. TTI calculates the list using TxDOT data.
David Schrank, senior research scientist of the institute’s mobility analysis program, said one key piece of data used to rank the roadways is the number of hours of delay drivers experience per mile annually. Drivers on the stretch of Hwy. 290 in Cy-Fair experience 277,655 hours of delay per mile annually, while the stretch of FM 1960 from Hwy. 290 to Hwy. 249 causes 258,151 hours of delay each year.
Another metric factored into this list is the annual cost of congestion. Schrank said this cost includes a loss of productivity as drivers wait in traffic as well as fuel wasted because vehicles are less efficient in stop-and-go conditions. On the aforementioned stretches of FM 1960 and Hwy. 290, this cost is about $25.5 million and $25.8 million, respectively.
Seven of the thoroughfares studied in Cy-Fair fall within list’s top 500. Additionally, the stretch of Hwy. 290 from Beltway 8 to Loop 610—which many Cy-Fair residents take to get to and from Houston’s inner loop—ranked 21st on the list with an annual congestion cost of $71.8 billion.
TxDOT uses its funding to carry out projects on state-owned roads, such as FM 1960 and Hwy. 290. A $1.8 billion project to widen Hwy. 290 that has been underway since 2012 is expected to be complete by the end of this year, according to TxDOT officials. The project entails widening highway main lanes from three to five lanes in each direction from Loop 610 to Hwy. 6 and three to four lanes from Hwy. 6 to the Harris County line.
TxDOT is also partnering with Harris County on road projects. Projects underway in Cy-Fair include making improvements to North Eldridge Parkway, FM 529 and Hwy. 249, said Pamela Rocchi, director of the capital improvement projects division for Harris County Precinct 4.
The North Eldridge Parkway projects targets portions of the road between Clay Road and FM 1960 and between Grant and Spring Cypress roads. It will include the installation of new traffic signals, median modifications and turn lane improvements, and will be put out to bid in the third quarter of 2018, Rocchi said.
The FM 529 project targets a portion of the road between North Eldridge Parkway and Greenhouse Road. It will be put out to bid by the end of 2018.
An increase in public transportation options could also help alleviate congestion, Clark said. However, he said, because the Greater Houston area is spread out, public transportation might not work everywhere.