“We’ve got more cars, more people out here and more people driving, so obviously, the expansion of the road to get those trying to go through Magnolia ... quicker will alleviate issues of traveling within the city,” Mayor Todd Kana said. “There’ll be a few growing pains as we get there but I think it’ll be definitely best, in the long run, to alleviate some of the traffic issues in town.”
The $29.8 million project includes plans to widen FM 1488 from two to four lanes with a continuous left-turn lane beginning near the Waller County line at Joseph Road and extending almost four miles to FM 1774 through the west side of Magnolia. TxDOT spokesperson Emily Black said the project is projected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023.
While the effort will be completely funded by the state, Magnolia City Administrator Don Doering said the city is still expected to contribute more than $1 million in construction and engineering costs to relocate utilities along the project limits.
Kana said utilities will be relocated through a contractor to existing easements owned by TxDOT.
“We have our utilities in [TxDOT]’s easements, and they will not build a new road over our pipes,” Kana said. “So, anytime we utilize their easements for our utilities, when they expand, we have to relocate those utilities prior to the expansion.”
As FM 1488 is a major crossing point from I-45 to Hwy. 290, according to Precinct 5 Constable Chris Jones, widening the road is a necessary response to recent growth in this area of Montgomery County.
"We have a lot of subdivisions slated to be built out [in Magnolia],” Jones said. “The growth is something that I feel like we’re actually trying to get ahead of right now, instead of [trying to react] to.”
TxDOT data shows average daily traffic along FM 1488 at FM 1774 increased by 30.87% from 2015-19.
“It’s got to be that there are so many people headed this direction, and it is going to be all of the wide-open spaces out north and northwest of Magnolia that [are] getting ready to go under development,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said. “Anything that you can do to help try to get some of this traffic through Magnolia is going to be a plus.”
Sandy Barton, president of the Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce, said the incoming construction has raised concerns among Magnolia business owners.
Slated to begin early next year, the project is the first part of a larger project to widen FM 1488 through the eastern city limits and beyond, which would extend construction up close to many of the city’s local businesses east of the railroad tracks. However, there is no current timeline set to widen FM 1488 from FM 1774 to west of FM 149, as this second portion of the project is still in the design phase, according to Black.
“Widening those lanes and providing a dedicated turn lane ... will provide some relief to getting traffic moved through Magnolia a little more quickly,” Barton said. “There’s a definite benefit; it’s just that we hope that we don’t lose any businesses from the impact that the road’s construction is going to create.”
Barton said some business owners have prepared to lose frontage due to the upcoming project, which, in some cases, has affected parking space near the properties.
In addition to the loss of frontage, Barton said business owners are also concerned with how the projected two-year construction will affect business in the long term.
“Once the construction starts, the biggest impact is going to be access and the fact that it is already difficult at times to come through the Magnolia community because of traffic backups,” Barton said. “We’ve seen a number of businesses go out of business because customers have a tendency to avoid those construction areas. ... Extreme delays for any small-business owner is a potential significant impact to their ability to stay financially viable.”