Updated 5:30 p.m. Nov. 16
Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack's office released a news release Nov. 16 clarifying there are no construction plans for an overpass or underpass at the intersection of Research Forest Drive and Grogan's Mill Road.
The release states there is also no funding available for major projects at the intersection, which is on the border between Montgomery County precincts 2 and 3. However, Noack's office has worked with the Montgomery County Traffic Operations Department and Strand Associates—a firm which completed a study on the intersection in April—to complete some improvements in recent weeks, including signage, markings and signal head installations.
In public comments at a township board of directors meeting Nov. 12, several residents spoke out in opposition to an underpass or overpass being constructed. The city of Shenandoah will hold a City Council meeting Nov. 17, which includes an agenda item to discuss a resolution opposing an elevated connection but supporting an at-grade solution at the intersection.
The release from Noack's office states a separate study from Bleyl Engineering examining a possible at-grade solution at the intersection has also been released.
"So far, however, Precinct 3 is not confident that any of the proposals meet the desired goals of not only moving more vehicles through—but doing so in a safe manner—at an intersection that consistently logs some of the highest numbers of motor vehicle accidents in The Woodlands-Shenandoah area, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office," the release stated.
Posted 12 p.m. Nov. 12
An intersection project at Research Forest Drive and Grogan’s Mill Road last discussed in depth in 2018 was back on The Woodlands Township agenda for discussion in late October, and officials said they will move forward with neighboring governmental bodies on discussions regarding measures needed to improve safety and traffic there.
New at-grade analysis
In 2018, the township’s board of directors did not support an underpass at the intersection, citing it would cost $24 million, and other solutions might be more cost effective. The township does not have jurisdiction over its roads as a special-purpose district.
The proposal at that time was for a six-lane, two-way road running east to west on Research Forest below Grogan’s Mill. The project had been proposed for funding from the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Improvement Program that year.
A total of eight alternate solutions for the intersection were developed in 2018 by Brown & Gay Engineers. At that time, the H-GAC projected the traffic volume at the intersection would increase from an average daily traffic count of 62,450 vehicles to 78,300 in 2022 and 117,500 in 2040. Those studies did not consider an at-grade solution, but John Bleyl of Bleyl Engineering said in an Oct. 22 email he was working on an at-grade analysis with cost estimates for Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley. The project had an expected Nov. 5 completion date.
Board Chair Gordy Bunch said at the Oct. 21 meeting the project had been meant to be revisited after the 2018 town hall meeting, involving multiple entities, including the city of Shenandoah and Montgomery County precincts 2 and 3. Both precincts border the intersection.
Director Ann Snyder said the entities met in April. Although a decision was not made, a new overpass analysis for Precincts 2 and 3 was presented by Strand Engineering. Bleyl said an analysis produced a recommendation to rebuild Research Forest as an overpass with a diverging diamond pattern on Grogan’s Mill for north and southbound traffic.
Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler spoke at the Oct. 21 meeting, stating his residents still seemed opposed to the idea of an overpass.
“We think an at-grade intersection will provide very good service levels until 2045,” Wheeler said.
Board Vice Chair Bruce Rieser said the estimate was closer to 2035.
Wheeler said businesses in Shenandoah appeared to be of the same mind as the residents in opposition to an overpass. However, he said an at-grade solution had not been advanced as a serious proposal.
“I haven’t spoken to a single business in favor of an overpass there,” he said.
Community Impact Newspaper previously reported Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said at-grade improvements would be a short-term fix, and he cited a need for safety improvements at the intersection.
According to Bunch, the at-grade solutions being analyzed by Bleyl Engineering for Precinct 2 could offer a more affordable compromise than an underpass.
“If Commissioner Riley is able to make the improvements in his portion of the intersection ... for such a fraction of the cost, it would stand to reason Precinct 3 may ... jump on board,” Wheeler said.
Officials said some progress on determining a path forward was expected to be brought before the board in November. However, The Woodlands’ input is limited to offering recommendations.
“We should have a solution in the next couple weeks to present,” Bunch said.
Hannah Zedaker and Matt Stephens contributed to this report.