242 flyovers expected to open by end of year

Two direct-connect flyover tollway roads designed to ease traffic congestion at Hwy. 242 and I-45 are expected to be completed by the fall of this year.

Last February it was reported that environmental clearance issues had forced the flyover project to get a late start, but Rick Kronenberger, project manager for PTP Transportation LLC, said the project is not behind schedule.

"Actually it is on schedule for completion at the end of the year," he said.

The project started in May of last year, but prior to December 2013, much of the work had been underground so not much was visible to those passing by, he said.

Kronenberger said in the last few months substantial progress has been made on the project, with one section of the steel girder installation completed in mid April. Now there are columns, caps and beams visible.

The $34 million construction project involves two flyover lanes.

One will provide mobility northbound on the I-45 main lanes traveling west on Hwy. 242 and merge near Lone Star College. The second flyover begins eastbound on Hwy. 242, taking traffic onto the southbound main lanes of I-45, Kronenberger said.

"A lot of times in the morning, there is a big back-up of traffic coming from east of I-45 going south into town because they are going through the stoplight," he said. "These lanes will enable no stopping of traffic."

Originally, the project was going to include a third flyover lane that would take northbound traffic on I-45 onto the eastbound lanes of Hwy. 242. Instead, Kronenberger said, there will not be a third connector, but those lanes will share the same ramp as the north-to-west flyover lane.

"It is similar to what TxDOT has done on other roads," he said. "They widen the lane and close it off with barriers until they are ready to phase it in."

Both of the flyovers will be toll roads accessible with electronic tags only.

Similar to other toll areas, there will just be signal poles where the toll equipment will be mounted. Kronenberger said each of the three state tags will work—EZ TAG, TxTag and TollTag.

The Hwy. 242 flyover project is part of a $125 million bond package approved by county voters in 2005 that was the first of its kind in the state. Known as "pass-through funding," it allowed counties to pass bonds for approved transportation projects that would later be paid back by the state.

Money will be reimbursed through a shadow toll and toll fees based on traffic counts, Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Doyal said.

Reimbursements will be between $10 million and $17 million.

The toll fee has yet to be determined, but Doyal expects it to be a variable rate based on peak travel times during the day.

The money will be used to pay off the bonds used for the project. The money received will also be put into an escrow account for another round of projects that will be decided between Montgomery County and TxDOT, Doyal said.

"[The flyovers] will be great because when you approach that intersection, it is a traffic capacity issue, but all of those cars are trying to go through the two lights under the freeway," Doyal said. "We can create the opportunity so we don't have to put the traffic under the freeway, which then won't have traffic backing up the freeway or the feeder road."