Easing congestion: Pearland projects aim to reduce east-west traffic

The extension of McHard Road in Pearland is one of three major projects the city is working on to address traffic congestion. (Courtesy city of Pearland)
The extension of McHard Road in Pearland is one of three major projects the city is working on to address traffic congestion. (Courtesy city of Pearland)

The extension of McHard Road in Pearland is one of three major projects the city is working on to address traffic congestion. (Courtesy city of Pearland)

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Road projects across east-to-west thoroughfares in Pearland have city and state officials hopeful its infrastructure can keep pace with the city’s booming population.

When it comes to east-to-west travel in Pearland, Broadway Street, also known as FM 518, is the busiest road for drivers, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. In a 2020 study released by the TTI, Broadway Street between Hwy. 288 and Hwy. 35 was ranked the most congested road in the city and 103rd in Texas.

While the four-lane road has been the main thoroughfare for residents to commute between Hwy. 35 and Hwy. 288, the congestion along the street spurred by an almost 40% population increase in the last decade has made improving east-to-west travel a focal point, Pearland Public Information Officer Joshua Lee said. ••There are three road projects in Pearland aiming to alleviate the congestion that will affect commuters and businesses: the widening of Broadway Street and Bailey Road and the extension of McHard Road, all of which are expected to have construction begin within the next five years.

“Mobility is a big issue, and it is something we are improving every day and keeping up with the growth,” Lee said.

Project details

The biggest Pearland transportation project to improve east-to-west travel is the widening of Broadway. This project, which is being spearheaded by the Texas Department of Transportation, has been broken into two phases, TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez said in an email. TxDOT is planning to widen the existing four-lane Broadway to six lanes, which will also include right and left turn lanes at some intersections, Perez said. Phase 1 includes widening the road from Hwy. 288 to Cullen Boulevard, and Phase 2 will widen the road from Cullen to Hwy. 35. The design of Phase 1 was put on hold due to budget issues but is expected to start back up in September, Perez said. Phase 1 is estimated to cost $35.4 million, Perez said.

The final design and right of way acquisition is set to continue over the next few years, and TxDOT aims to start construction in late 2025 or early 2026, Perez said. Similar projects take three to four years to complete once construction begins, but it is too early for a full timeline to be given for Phase 1 of the project, he said.

“The proposed improvements are anticipated to help reduce congestion along FM 518 and along cross streets, resulting in improved level of service at each intersection,” Perez said. “We are not only planning to address the current growth but future growth.”

There is not a timeline set for Phase 2 of the Broadway widening because the estimated $42 million project has not yet been funded, Perez said.Meanwhile, north of Broadway is another project aimed at reducing congestion. The McHard extension will connect the existing thoroughfare from Mykawa Road to Cullen, opening another road for commuters to get from Hwy. 288 to Hwy. 35.

Among the three Pearland transportation projects in the works, it is the closest to completion, Pearland Director of Engineering Robert Upton said. Barring any weather delays, the $48.56 million McHard project is set to be substantially completed by mid-July 2022, he said.

The Houston-Galveston Area Council is funding $32.59 million of the project, while Pearland is funding $15.97 million, according to city documents.

The project, which has been under construction since September 2020, will add a four-lane road with medians and underground drainage, according to city documents on the project. Based on traffic projections and traffic modeling done by Pearland—which consider existing traffic volumes, traffic counts at intersections and land development—the city projects the McHard extension will help reduce Broadway traffic, Upton said.“With additional east-to-west corridors, this opens up the corridor basically from Pearland Parkway all the way to Hwy. 288,” Upton said. “This would allow traffic another pathway to get across town east and west, which will help alleviate some congestion off of Broadway.”

Another project the city has in the works to aid with east-to-west travel is another road widening at Bailey Road—which is south of Broadway—from Hwy. 35 to Veterans Drive. According to city documents, the goal of the $10.85 million project is to expand the two-lane road to four lanes.While the project was projected to go to bid in June, it was delayed due to permitting issues with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Upton said. Pearland now aims to send the project to bid in mid- to late 2022, Upton said.

Traffic demands

Pearland’s booming population is one reason why these road projects are necessary, said Matt Buchanan, president of the Pearland Economic Development Corp., in an email.“To facilitate growth of the Pearland community and create a robust economy with a strong tax base to support our city and schools, it is imperative to have infrastructure and connectivity that supports existing business and business growth,” he said.

Pearland is not only one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas, but also in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 decennial data. The city’s population has increased 37.89% since 2010 from 91,252 residents to 125,828, data showed.

“Based off census numbers, ... [Pearland] is the eighth-fastest growing city over 100,000 individuals in the United States of America,” said Jim Johnson, president and CEO of the Pearland Chamber of Commerce.

With the rising population, the city is aiming to expand its thoroughfares to meet existing and future demand, Upton said. According to 2019 data from the H-GAC, Pearland is forecast to grow by more than 30,000 people from 2015 to 2040, coupled with an increase of nearly 22,000 households.

Additionally, Pearland’s population growth is not coming from a specific community; there is residential growth all across the city, PEDC Director of Marketing Melissa Black said.

“Pearland is growing rapidly, and transportation infrastructure improvements that improve east-west mobility across the community have been long-term goals of the city,” Buchanan said.

While the McHard extension is the closest to completion and the Broadway and Bailey widening projects are still in design, the goal for the projects is to alleviate traffic along Broadway and offer Pearland residents multiple options when it comes to east-to-west travel within the city, Perez said.

Business perspective

While the road expansions are expected to benefit long-term transportation, construction will also affect the surrounding areas in the near future, especially along Broadway, city officials said. The expansion will require the acquisition of private property that will be disruptive to existing development along the corridor, Buchanan said.

“During the design, there are businesses that could lose enough significant portions of their building that could potentially force them to relocate or make major modifications,” Johnson said.

While the McHard extension will extend the existing thoroughfare from Mykawa to Cullen, the heavy effect on businesses is an issue unique to Broadway. The McHard project is not expected to overwhelm the path with more business traffic because it is mainly a residential development, Buchanan said, and the Bailey Road project will happen adjacent to mostly empty land, according to city plans.

“While the expansion of McHard may bring nodes of commercial developments around major intersections, we believe that the area will remain primarily residential,” he said.

TxDOT held an open house in March 2019, seeking community input on how the Broadway widening could affect businesses in the area, according to the city of Pearland. Since 2019, the Pearland Chamber of Commerce has also met with businesses along the Broadway corridor to gauge business owners’ concerns, Johnson said.

“It is always our goal to minimize impacts on the traveling public, and we will certainly work with the community to make sure they are aware of any potential impacts,” Perez said.

When construction for the Broadway widening eventually begins, businesses will face challenges in the short term, such as greater congestion.

“Not having access is the biggest [concern],” BB’s Tex-Orleans managing partner Saquonne Crump said of customers trying to reach his business during construction.

Tony Shiner, the general manager at Sparklez Express Car Wash, located at 8905 Broadway St., Pearland, said one concern he has when the construction begins will be the dust caused by the work, which could discourage potential customers from washing their cars at his business.

That drawback, however, was not enough to discourage him about the project’s benefits to his business in the long term.

“I think it will benefit each business at [FM] 518,” Shiner said. “There’s a lot of residents, and [Pearland] is growing. You have to expand—that’s logical. I think it will be lucrative for the businesses.”
By Andy Yanez

Reporter, Pearland/Friendswood

Andy joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in June 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Houston. He started off as the South Houston Metro Reporter where he helped each different edition in the South Houston market before transitioning to the Pearland/Friendswood market in August 2021. Andy covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Andy served as the sports editor of The Cougar, UH's student newspaper, where he covered the university's athletics beat for two years and got to cover the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four in Indianapolis.


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