Toll road brings growth, sparking rural resident concern

pasture with text
Pieces of pasture in Manvel are being sold as owners move away from the growth. (Photo by Haley Morrison, Designed by Elyssa Turner)

Pieces of pasture in Manvel are being sold as owners move away from the growth. (Photo by Haley Morrison, Designed by Elyssa Turner)

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Here is a look at population in Brazoria County over the last 10 years. (Designed by Elyssa Turner)
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Here is a look at population growth in Alvin, Iowa Colony and Manvel. (Designed by Elyssa Turner)
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Take a look as master-planned communities coming to the area. (Designed by Elyssa Turner)
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As construction continues on the toll road and FM 518, here are things to know about each project. (Designed by Elyssa Turner)
The Brazoria County Expressway is anticipated to alleviate traffic when it opens next year. For commuters, this is a welcome change. But many who live in rural areas are not looking forward to the new development the new toll road is expected to bring.

“I’m not a fan. We’re already growing too fast,” Manvel resident Mike Kelley said.

The new toll road is expected to bring both residential and commercial development. As a result, more residents will be moving in, and subdivisions will be built in areas that are grassy and untouched for now.

“We came here to get away from the people,” Kelley said.

Resident resistance

Kelley moved away from a populated city to Del Bello Spur in Manvel five or six years ago to enjoy living in the country. He said he appreciates the quiet and the nature as well as the space his miniature Australian Shepherds have to run around. Once the development comes to the area, that could all change.

“Not even the police come down this road. Everybody takes care of everybody out here,” he said.

The street he lives on is small, and all of the neighbors along the road know each other, Kelley said. In fact, Kelley’s neighbor, who has had his home and land for 37 years, has sold his home and his land, which he had been using for pasture. The neighbor does not want to live next to the new master-planned subdivision that is going to be built next to his home, Kelley said.

The city of Manvel is in the process of building new planned residential communities. One of the new subdivisions is Del Bello Lakes, which broke ground in October.

Even without the toll road’s completion, residential development is already beginning in the area. Once the project was announced, developers began to buy land along Hwy. 288, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta said.

Kelley lives near Del Bello Spur, which is a dead-end road. However, the city of Manvel is in the process of widening Del Bello Road, which will provide access to Manvel’s city center and eventually connect with Hwy. 288, Kelley said. While Kelley will likely not lose any of his yard space when the road is widened, he plans to move once the road is built due to the traffic he suspects it will bring. Already, Kelley is a mile away from the Hwy. 288.

“They’re going to put a four-lane road with a median on what is a dead-end road,” Kelley said.

Meanwhile, those in the northern part of the county are excited about the new toll road, Brazoria County Commissioner Ryan Cade said.

“Our constituents in the north end of the county have paid very close attention to this project. Many work in and around downtown Houston, and this is a major quality-of-life improvement for them,” Cade said.

Cade is the commissioner for Precinct 2, which encompasses a portion of the Hwy. 288 corridor. The residents in the northern part of his precinct are in Pearland, which arguably feels the brunt of the construction due to the Hwy. 288 construction as well as the related construction on FM 518.

Gloria Cloudt, another Manvel resident who has lived in the area all her life, said she is not looking forward to the growth the new toll road will bring, which she said is more than she has ever seen in the area.

“It is what it is,” she said. “You can’t stop progress.”

New development

While the toll road ends at Croix Road, the ease of access it is expected to bring has spurred growth to the south as well. Even without the completed toll road, the city of Manvel continues to grow. In 2018, the city’s population is estimated to have more than doubled since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city grew from 5,284 residents to 11,535 residents in that time.

Likewise, Iowa Colony, the small town south of Manvel along Hwy. 288 is also growing quickly. Iowa Colony grew from 1,166 residents to 1,896 residents in 2018, or by 63% in the same time period.

The population continues to grow throughout the rest of the county as well, even in parts more rural than suburban Pearland.

The growth of the county is due largely to the school systems and the industry, Sebesta said.

“We have a great economy, great schools, lots of workplace opportunities. It makes Brazoria County a very desired place for people to want to locate,” Sebesta said.

Over the last 10 years, the county’s population has increased by 17 percent, with Pearland and Manvel’s growth likely responsible for a large part of the growth.

Debbie Burr, a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, has been selling in the south Houston area for five years and has seen an influx of people coming and going in the area, particularly around Manvel and Alvin, where new residential communities are cropping up.

Burr said she often sees dual-income families with one member working in downtown Houston and one in southern Brazoria County, so the area offers a good halfway point as well as easy access to Hwy. 288.

However, as people are using Hwy. 288 to commute both north and south, Burr sees both directions flooded with congestion during peak hours, she said.

Originally slated to be completed this summer, both the Brazoria County and Harris County portions of the toll road have been pushed back. The Brazoria County portion of the road, which runs from Croix Road to Clear Creek, or the Brazoria-Harris County line, is slated to be completed by mid-January. The work on FM 518, which includes working on the Hwy. 288 overpasses, is expected to be completed this year.

The toll road cannot open to drivers until the Harris County portion is completed, Brazoria County engineer Matt Hanks said. As the Harris County toll road may open in sections before next summer, sections of the Brazoria County Expressway could open for drivers as well.

“[Residents] are sick and tired of seeing construction barrels but I think most people realize the fruits of what is coming. It is going to really cut down on their time in traffic,” Sebesta said.

Business growth

As the residential communities in the area open up, they will bring business development and work opportunities along with them, Burr said.

While Burr has seen more people flock to the area over the five years she has worked in south Houston, she expects even more will come once the toll road is open.

“The toll road is a definite need,” she said.

The toll road is needed for those who work in the Texas Medical Center, as a large portion of employees come from the south Houston area, particularly Pearland. The road is expected to have exits directly in and out of the Medical Center, alleviating the traffic for those commuters.

The area has also seen new workplace development, as well as shopping centers and will continue to once the toll road opens, Cade said.

“We feel certain both residential and commercial growth will occur as a result of the improved mobility the toll road will provide for current and future residents,” Cade said.
By Haley Morrison

Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. In her tenure as a reporter, she has primarily written about education, health care and transportation.


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