Residents will see Hwy. 249 take shape in Montgomery County this year—a long-awaited thoroughfare for Precinct 2 that could ease traffic congestion, provide economic development opportunities and afford drivers greater access to the region, Commissioner Charlie Riley said.
“It’s very exciting for the folks over here in the southwest portion of Montgomery County,” Riley said. “It’s a road that is desperately needed and will do great things for this part of the county.”
Crews are working in Harris, Montgomery and Grimes counties to extend Hwy. 249 from Tomball to Hwy. 105 in Navasota—a project estimated to cost about $662 million in total. Construction on three of the remaining four parts of the project—including the Montgomery County portion—is expected to ramp up in 2018 and be complete by summer 2020, transportation officials said.
The Texas Department of Transportation and contractor Williams Brothers Construction Company Inc. LLC began clearing land in December for TxDOT’s first segment of the Hwy. 249 extension, which stretches from FM 1774 in Pinehurst to FM 1774 in Todd Mission, said Eric Bennett, TxDOT’s Hwy. 249 project manager.
Bennett said construction activity will inrease in January, nearly a year after Harris County Toll Road Authority crews began work on Phase 2 of the Tomball Tollway—the tolled portion of Hwy. 249 in Harris County. Parts of the project will open this year.
Phase 1 of the Tomball Tollway opened to drivers in April 2015 between Northpointe Boulevard and FM 2920. Work on Phase 2 of the project began in February, extending the Tomball Tollway from north of FM 2920 in Tomball to Spring Creek.
Phase 2, estimated to cost $99.3 million, stretches 1.7 miles and is set to be complete in December 2019, HCTRA Program Construction Manager Karen McKinnon said. The project timeline aligns with Montgomery County Toll Road Authority’s portion of the tollway in Pinehurst.
“When our road is complete, their road will be complete,” HCTRA Deputy Director of Engineering John Tyler said. “We need their section open so that cars can get onto our section and vice versa.”
However, HCTRA’s frontage roads are expected to open this summer, McKinnon said. Once frontage roads are complete, traffic will shift so crews can complete the mainlanes.
“Besides that, there won’t be a whole lot more traffic shifts. We’ll move to the frontage roads, and then we’ll have the middle free,” McKinnon said.
Once traffic is shifted to the frontage road, the existing pavement will be replaced with three tolled lanes in each direction, she said.
“At the end of the day, it’ll be a lot like the Phase 1 section with the two frontage roads and the mainlaines in the middle,” McKinnon said.
In addition to constructing the tollway and frontage lanes, HCTRA’s project includes installing sidewalks, creating stormwater detention areas and reconstructing the bridge across Spring Creek.
When completed, the bridge will stand 2 feet taller to help mitigate flooding, Tyler said. However, drivers will not lose access across the creek during construction.
MCTRA proposes construction bid
From Spring Creek, MCTRA continues the project north to just south of FM 149.
MCTRA’s portion, estimated to cost $63 million, stretches 3.6 miles, Riley said. He said MCTRA will send the project out for bid in early January with construction beginning by April 1.
Riley, a member of MCTRA, said he believes the extension of Hwy. 249 through Precinct 2 will decrease commute times, improve mobility and provide development opportunities to the region.
“This toll road will do everything we need as far as relieving some traffic in and around Magnolia and the cut-through traffic from [other counties],” Riley said. “The people that are not coming through and stopping in Magnolia anyway, let’s give them a chance to get around and get back to where they’re trying to go.”
While some residents and local officials have expressed concerns at Montgomery County Commissioners Court meetings about the tollway being funded by tax dollars, Riley said the project will be funded by revenue bonds—meaning the tollway will be funded from future toll revenue, not property taxes.
“Having folks from different counties, different cities [and]different areas helping us pay for the road, it’s not all on the backs of Montgomery County residents,” Riley said. “There’s nobody in Montgomery County that will pay for the road unless they use it, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Upon completion in December 2019, the portion of the tollway will feature four lanes divided by a concrete barrier, Riley said. The existing Hwy. 249 lanes in Pinehurst will become the frontage roads with tolled lanes constructed in the middle.
“I’m expecting that as soon as we start seeing concrete being poured and all on [Hwy.] 249, this place is really going to take off,” Magnolia City Administrator Paul Mendes said.
Construction will pick up pace on TxDOT’s Segment 1 in early 2018 as well, Bennett said.
TxDOT is targeting a spring 2020 opening for Segment 1A from Pinehurst to FM 1488 in Magnolia, he said. The remainder of Segment 1—between FM 1488 and FM 1774 in Todd Mission—is expected to wrap up by summer 2020. TxDOT’s segments will feature intermittent frontage roads and are estimated to cost about $500 million in total to construct, Bennett said.
TxDOT is expected to break ground on Segment 2—from FM 1774 in Todd Mission to Hwy. 105—in 2019. Segment 2 is the only portion of Hwy. 249 that will not be tolled.
Bennett said developers of proposed communities in the Magnolia area, such as Magnolia Audubon and Woodard, have already expressed interest in the mobility Hwy. 249 will provide the region. Bennett said he believes Hwy. 249 will improve mobility along FM 1774 and grant drivers easier access to Texas A&M University and the Texas Renaissance Festival north of Magnolia.
“We always think of safety, too, so if you have too many cars on the road for too long, you’ve got safety issues,” he said. “We’ve had some mobility challenges, and this is giving an alternative route to allow for continued movement up to College Station.”
As construction continues, TxDOT and Williams Brothers Construction have opened an office in the Magnolia Landmark Building at 18230 FM 1488 to answer questions and concerns from residents.
“I’ve heard of this thing most of my life, and I was always told we’d never live long enough to see it,” Riley said. “If I can make it about three more years, I’ll probably get to see it.”
This story is one update from the Annual Community Guide. View the full list of Top 10 stories to follow in 2018 here.