The dedication shown by Harris and Montgomery counties to complete the Hwy. 249 toll road project from Spring Cypress Road to FM 1774 has led the Texas Department of Transportation to get involved with another aspect of the project. The department has begun conducting preliminary studies on a long-awaited Aggie Highway.
The Aggie Highway would connect from the Houston suburbs all the way to the Bryan–College Station area. It would specifically branch off from the end of the Hwy. 249 toll road and run through Todd Mission and Navasota to Hwy. 6, which takes drivers right about up to Texas A&M University.
The concept of the Aggie Highway has been on the discussion table for years, but no action has even been taken on it, said Craig Doyal, commissioner of Montgomery County's Precinct 2, where the project would begin.
"It's something that we in Montgomery County have always advocated, but it's something that requires participation from a number of organizations," he said. "With Hwy. 249 moving forward, we were able to get that conversation back on the table."
Russell Zapalac, TxDOT's chief planning and project officer, first made the announcement last December at the 249 Partnership's annual meeting. At that meeting, he said environmental studies would begin in early 2013 on two planned segments, one in the Houston district and another in the Bryan district.
"There are limited investments to do these things and it takes a lot longer than we would like to get started because of the financial constraints, but the first step is getting the planning and environmental clearances done," Zapalac said. "Then we can start talking about construction. We consider this one of our strategic projects and we'd like to make this a reality in the next five to six years."
The highway would create more opportunities for the many businesses that transport goods between the Port of Houston, the City of Houston and College Station, said David Ellis, researcher with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The cities along the way stand to benefit as well, he said.
"The opportunities here are huge," he said. "The development that will occur in Navasota, Magnolia, Tomball and the points in between is incredibly significant. A lot of it has to do with whether these places are connected in a way that facilitates commerce."
Ellis also commented on how such a project would make both of the areas being connected more attractive to businesses looking to relocate.
"If we can increase mobility, the speed at which people can travel, we can increase both the employee pool and the customer base for the business," he said. "That's what this will ultimately provide for this community."