Mobility planners consider options at Research Forest, Grogan's Mill Road

Local transportation entities have announced alternative ideas to a previously planned overpass at Research Forest Drive and Grogan's Mill Road, plans that include a proposal for an overpass at Lake Woodlands Drive and Grogan's Mill Road.

The Research Forest Drive overpass faced opposition from the city of Shenandoah, leading The Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1 to turn toward other projects, particularly the expansion of Kuykendahl Road in Harris County and the Lake Woodlands Drive overpass at Grogan's Mill Road.

"There's only funding to do one of the two overpasses and the [financial] contribution on the Kuykendahl [Road] bridge," said Robert Heineman, spokesman for The Woodlands RUD. "So rather than doing Research Forest and Grogan's Mill, we're going to focus on Lake Woodlands Drive."

Heineman said the RUD would not continue with its involvement with the plans for the intersection until there is funding available.

He also listed three issues to be addressed to fix traffic issues at Research Forest Drive and Grogan's Mill Road.

The issues include the need to improve traffic flow at Research Forest and I-45, to increase the roadway capacity along Research Forest Drive and to improve the intersection itself.

"To do all three of those, you need a coordinated effort between Shenandoah, between the RUD if it were involved in that—now [the RUD is] not involved in that—and the county," Heineman said. "Right now there's not a coordinated solution to all of that."

About 35,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of Research Forest Drive and Grogan's Mill Road daily, according to a study by the The Woodlands Development Company.

"Shenandoah is wanting to be part of the solution that we all agree on," Shenandoah City Administrator Greg Smith said. "Shenandoah could not agree to allow the overpass to be built because it would have an adverse effect on our businesses."

The city's earlier opposition was based on what Smith called a lack of communication and a lack of looking into alternatives to the overpass as well as the increased noise an overpass could cause. He said the plans The Woodlands RUD submitted would have hurt some of Shenandoah's businesses.

"[Planners] were taking away one entrance," Smith said. "They were eliminating one entrance on the south side of Research Forest to our newest retail development and medical development."

The alternatives to the overpass for the intersection were first announced Sept. 17 by the Houston–Galveston Area Council as part of the South Montgomery County Mobility Study. The new options include building an underpass and combining the various parts of the intersection into a single intersection.

"Both of those would give relief [from the traffic]," Smith said. "Instead of having two intersections or four intersections, it would come into one."

Smith said he did not foresee the same resistance to the alternatives that the city of Shenandoah had to the overpass, but he would need to see the official plans before he could speak with certainty.

"I think there are some options now that certainly can meet the needs of all parties," Smith said.

An overpass at Lake Woodlands Drive and Grogan's Mill Road is facing its own opposition. The Woodlands United Methodist Church, which has one of the largest congregations of any church in The Woodlands at more than 15,000, is located at Lake Woodlands Drive just west of Grogan's Mill Road.

Senior pastor Ed Robb, who also serves as a director on the township board, voiced opposition to the project. Robb said that if plans for an overpass were nixed near Shenandoah, a city with a population of about 2,500, similar thought should be given to an overpass near a church with larger membership numbers.

Robb said he could potentially support plans for an underpass, rather than an overpass at the intersection.