The Woodlands Township board of directors heard an update at its Feb. 22 meeting regarding the proposed Hwy. 242 expansion project from FM 1488 to I-45 as the Texas Department of Transportation prepares for a new round of public hearings on a revised design.

After the first round of public hearings was held in June 2022, the initial proposal to construct an additional lane on either side of Hwy. 242 was altered after receiving public comments in opposition to the idea. The new design proposal now uses only existing right-of-way to make turn lane improvements to 13 intersections along the corridor. It also includes a raised curb median and roughly 11 acres of detention pond facilities.

Chief Operating Officer Chris Nunes said township officials have reached out to discuss “Woodlandsifying” the project to ensure it was in line with the current design standards in The Woodlands, especially concerning landscaping and pedestrian-friendly zones. Nunes and Intergovernmental Relations Director Todd Stephens presented the information to the board.

Based on current discussions, Nunes said TxDOT has agreed to pay for the cost of landscaping materials and labor as long as the township provides funding for the design of the landscaping. The costs of the projects have not yet been established, he said.

“We have had communication with TxDOT about ‘Woodlandsifying’ whatever is going to be put in because we believe our community’s special touches, which have been done over the course of the last 50 years to keep The Woodlands the way it is, is something we want to continue,” Nunes said.

The public comment period extends to March 24, and there will be a virtual option for those unable to attend the in-person public hearing at the College Park High School, 3701 College Park Drive The Woodlands, at 5 p.m. on March 9.

“To me, losing 10 acres of trees, it behooves us to work with them and see if that’s absolutely necessary,” said director Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. She voiced opposition to the addition of detention ponds due to concerns regarding the maintenance and appearance of the ponds along Hwy. 242.

The initial proposal also included a pathway alongside sound barriers put in by TxDOT, but since the revised proposal does not include the new lanes, the sound barriers were deemed unnecessary and removed from the project scope, according to the presentation. However, TxDOT made the township aware of a grant program which would help fund pedestrian-friendly pathways around Hwy. 242, according to Nunes.

Nunes said the township put together a plan to submit to TxDOT for a pedestrian connection to the south side of Hwy. 242 and Windvale Circle which would provide safe crossing to and from Harper’s Landing. The township is expecting to receive notice over the next few days to see if they qualify to file an actual application for the grant, Nunes said.

Such a grant would require a 20-25% funding match for the project, according to Nunes.

“We’ve applied for various grants through [Harris-Galveston Area Council] and have not been successful; this is a TxDOT grant and when they called us about it we felt very good about it,” said board Chair Ann Snyder.

Board members Kyle Watson and Richard Franks were nominated in a 5-1 vote to act as liaisons between the township and TxDOT regarding messaging for the project. Sekula-Gibbs voted against the nomination.