Nearly one-third of the approximately 1,600 homes proposed or under construction within the city of Tomball are concentrated along Hufsmith Road and South Cherry Street, according to city information.

The two-lane, county-owned roadways have seen an uptick in development as new residential communities Grand Junction, Copper Cove and Cherry Pines have broken ground, while home construction is expected to start this spring in Timber Trails, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. The four communities total 501 lots with the proposed Tomball Heights slated to bring another 41 homes along the Brown-Hufsmith roads corridor.

“I’ve seen a significant increase in traffic in the last four or five years [on Hufsmith Road]. Once these subdivisions come in, it’s going to be even more so,” Community Development Director Craig Meyers said.

Some residents and City Council members have shared concerns about driving traffic to Hufsmith Road and Cherry Street when projects to improve the roads have not yet begun.

Harris County Precinct 4 officials said widening projects are being considered for Hufsmith as well as Holderrieth Road—which intersects with South Cherry—and Zion Road, which intersects with Hufsmith. However, county officials did not share any plans to improve South Cherry Street.

“You’re building the homes, but you’re not solving the streets. Don’t you think you need to take care of the streets before you let people build homes? Everything is kind of backwards,” said Dennis Faske, a resident of Pine Meadows—located just north of Cherry Pines—and secretary of the Pine Meadows Community Homeowners Association.

Development on Hufsmith Road

The number of average daily vehicles at Hwy. 249 and Brown Road—which becomes Hufsmith to the east—grew 52.7% from 2011-16, Texas Department of Transportation data shows. However, Brown was connected to Hufsmith in 2012, likely contributing to the increased traffic count, Meyers said.

Traffic along the corridor will likely continue rising with residential developments in the works, Meyers said.

Home construction began in December on Grand Junction, a new 49-lot community on East Hufsmith Road near Lovett Street, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. Home construction is set to start in the spring on Timber Trails, a 105-home community neighboring Grand Junction, said Elizabeth Russell, the marketing director for Stylecraft, the builder in Timber Trails.

“We chose this area for its easy access to employment centers and for [the] highly respected Tomball schools,” said Lance Wright, a partner with Grand Junction homebuilder CastleRock Communities, in an email.

He said build-out is expected to take two years in Grand Junction.

Timber Trails is expected to be built out by 2024, Russell previously said.

“We were drawn to the location of Timber Trails because its proximity to downtown Tomball and the other development that is happening in that area,” Stylecraft owner and CEO Doug French said in a statement.

Meyers said the two communities will have detention ponds on-site. Additionally, to accommodate the size of the developments, the city’s fire code dictates how many access points a subdivision must have, he said. Entrances will be located on East Hufsmith Road and Carrell Street for Timber Trails and on East Hufsmith Road for Grand Junction.

Across from Grand Junction, a new wedding and event venue, Boxwood Manor, is under construction and is anticipated to open this fall, owner Michael Hogan said.

Tomball Heights, a 41-home community slated for Brown Road, is also proposed, originally set to break ground in summer 2019, Community Impact Newspaper reported. An updated groundbreaking timeline has not been released.

Further, council approved rezoning Jan. 6 with a 3-2 vote for the final 2 acres needed for boat and RV storage with office space near Hospital Street.

“[Hufsmith Road] was ready for development. There was nothing there on it, so there was an opportunity for that kind of [residential] development there. We don’t have a ton of vacant land around the city,” Meyers said.

Cherry Street communities

Home construction is also picking up on South Cherry Street with one community nearing build-out and another just getting started.

Construction is ongoing in Copper Cove, a 52-lot community, with several homes already completed, according to city information. Additionally, Meritage Homes is developing Cherry Pines, an 86-acre community featuring 295 homes. Kim Ahrens, the marketing manager for Meritage Homes, said a model home is set to open this summer, and build-out is expected within six years.

Meyers said residents will have access to Cherry Pines from South Cherry and Theis Lane, and the project will have regional detention flowing to the city’s M121 drainage channel extension under construction.

The South Cherry area near Holderrieth Road often sees high water, city officials previously said.

To improve drainage in its southern limits, the city is extending M121 from south of Theis to a detention basin south of Holderrieth Road, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. Tomball Public Works Director Beth Jones said Rebel Contractors Inc. is excavating the channel as MK Constructors relocates pipelines. Excavation work began in early December, and the approximately $9.1 million project is anticipated to be completed in late 2020, she said.

However, Faske said he is concerned about the “overbuilding” on and around Cherry and its effects on traffic and flooding.

The number of average daily vehicles on South Cherry near Belmont Street grew by more than 400 vehicles from 2011-16, totaling 6,577 daily vehicles in 2016, according to TxDOT data.

“About five years ago, [the traffic] really wasn’t too bad,” Faske said. “We have actually lost people here in the neighborhood that have moved out—some of the older [residents] have moved to other areas out of Tomball—because of the traffic and knowing what’s coming.”

Road projects

Cherry and Hufsmith are under Precinct 4’s jurisdiction, so any improvements, such as widening the roads, would have to be initiated by the county, but city officials do suggest needed projects, Meyers said. He said he has requested traffic studies at Zion and East Hufsmith roads to replace the four-way stop with a traffic signal to help traffic flow.

Precinct 4 has plans to widen Hufsmith between Baker Drive and FM 2978 from two asphalt lanes to four concrete lanes, said Lindsey Trahan, the agency coordinator for the Capital Improvement Projects Division, during an August presentation to the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce. In August, Trahan also said Precinct 4 had initiated the early stages of a three-part widening of Zion Road to four concrete lanes between Hwy. 249 and East Hufsmith.

Pamela Rocchi, the director of Precinct 4’s Capital Improvement Projects Division, said the Hufsmith and Zion projects are in the planning phase, and Precinct 4 anticipates seeking approval from Commissioners Court to begin the study phases in 2020. A construction timeline was not available.

While Precinct 4 officials did not share plans to improve South Cherry, Precinct 4 is pursuing a widening of Holderrieth between Hwy. 249 and Hufsmith-Kohrville Road from two asphalt lanes to four concrete lanes. This project would include adding a traffic signal at South Cherry and Holderrieth, Rocchi said. The traffic signal was previously designed in 2016 to be a stand-alone project, but traffic demands on Holderrieth warranted a widening project, which the signal will be part of, she said.

Rocchi said the Harris County Engineering Department plans to submit the study report for the Holderrieth project to county commissioners for approval in the first quarter of 2020, and the goal is to complete the project by August 2024. An estimated cost was not available.

However, Faske said he is skeptical conditions will improve unless development slows.

“The only way you’ll fix traffic is stop building, fix the roads to accommodate for more vehicles, then go back building,” Faske said.