Toll project moves forward with 3-2 support from Montgomery County commissioners

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Toll project moves forward with 3-2 support from Montgomery County commissionersDespite objections, Montgomery County commissioners passed a resolution June 13 supporting the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority’s construction of a $63 million, 3.6-mile tolled extension of Hwy. 249, also known as the Tomball Tollway. The resolution passed with a 3-2 vote. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark voted in opposition.

County Judge Craig Doyal said the Hwy. 249 extension into the county will be funded by revenue bonds, not taxpayer money, and will be repaid with toll revenue. Future courts can decide to discontinue the tolls when the road is paid for.

“This traffic and revenue study four years ago showed that this project over 25 years would generate probably in the neighborhood of $200 million in excess revenue [for the county],” Doyal said.

If MCTRA funds construction of the road and implements a toll, the revenue stays within the county and can fund local transportation, Doyal said. Should the Texas Department of Transportation construct the segment, toll revenue from the road could be spent throughout the state.

“[TxDOT] will build it, but they’re going to toll it just like anybody else would, whoever constructs it,” Doyal said. “But if it’s going to be tolled, I would like for Montgomery County to control those tolls.”

Representatives from the city of Magnolia, local chambers of commerce, North Houston Association and Magnolia ISD urged the court to adopt a resolution supporting the proposed north-south thoroughfare.

However, other residents and elected officials like state Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, expressed concern about Montgomery County funding construction of the road.

“The question for me is not whether [the extension]should be built but how it should be paid for,” Keough said. “Controlling one toll at one-fifth of the toll road is no control at all.”

The extension through Montgomery and Grimes counties spans about 28 miles, extending the Harris County portion from Spring Creek north to Navasota. The project is set for completion in January 2020, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said.

Noack said funding the toll road is a risky investment for Montgomery County to pursue.

“Let [TxDOT] take the risk on the road,” Noack said. “If our job was to make money, I would close my community centers and reopen them as Chick-fil-As and Starbucks.”

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Anna Dembowski

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.

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