As executive director of the Grand Parkway Association, David Gornet has been advocating for the construction of the 180-mile loop for 16 years. He became executive director for the association in 2001. Prior to that he worked as a planning and construction consultant. Before his work with the GPA, Gornet worked for 18 years as director of transportation and planning with a consulting firm in Houston. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering and is a registered professional engineer in Texas. Gornet said the best thing about being involved in the Grand Parkway construction is the ability to lessen travel time for drivers so they can spend more time with their families.
How long did it take Grand Parkway to get started locally in Harris and Montgomery counties?
Environmental studies were started in 1999, and designs were approved in 2009 for Harris County and in 2010 for Montgomery County. In 2012 the design was passed to [the Texas Department of Transportation] in both counties, and construction began in 2013.
What is the estimated cost and end date for construction on the Grand Parkway?
The estimated cost of construction is $1.2 billion, plus the cost of the land. We’re estimating a finishing date sometime in the latter part of 2015.
What is the noise abatement plan for segment F-1? What are some of the criteria by which those sound barriers are constructed?
Only one subdivision, Fairfield, will have noise walls. The rest of the neighborhoods were far enough away to not need one. There are federal guidelines on whether sound barriers are warranted. Just because there are noise walls doesn’t mean that the noise will go away, and just because traffic is heard doesn’t mean you need a sound barrier. The noise has to be above a certain level, one that is determined by these guidelines, in order to receive a sound barrier.
Which communities or areas around Segment F-2 and Segment G have received sound walls?
Those that are needed in the F-2 section are neighborhoods such as Three Lakes, Glen Loch Forest, Lakes of Avalon, Sugar Berry, Mossy Oaks and Forest North. Segment G has three areas where sound barriers will be installed. Spring Trails, Parks Run and Creekside will all have noise walls. This segment, along with segments F-1 and F-2, should be finished with construction later on this year.
Although the parkway will be located south of The Woodlands and Conroe area, will it still affect traffic in those areas?
It’ll definitely change traffic patterns there, and I see that as a positive impact. That area will also not have any sound barriers and won’t be affected by the noise of the parkway since it’s north of the road. But the parkway will take some traffic from the area and offer quicker trips on the highway rather than taking local roads and having longer travel times.
With the ExxonMobil campus and Springwoods Village development well underway and other projects on the horizon, can we expect more development along the Grand Parkway at major connectors, such as I-45, Hwy. 249, Hwy. 290 and Hwy. 59?
We can certainly expect more development in the area surrounding the Grand Parkway. The [portion of the] parkway that was built 20 years ago that connects Katy to Sugar Land has seen significant growth in its surrounding area. There have been more choices to get places, faster travel times, and the parkway has improved transportation. We’re hoping to see a similar repeat with the Grand Parkway [segments that are] being built now.
What is the biggest effect the Grand Parkway will have on The Woodlands and surrounding areas?
It’s an opportunity for all of Montgomery County to grow and have better choices on where they work, live and shop. This county is a great place to live. I look forward to getting construction finished.
What feedback have you heard concerning the Grand Parkway?
During planning stages there were some concerns because people didn’t understand exactly how it would work. There was some anxiety about that and the type of impact it would have on people’s houses. But we told them to look at the Segment 20-D parkway that was built and the influence in that corridor and how the housing values had not gone down and growth in the area could be seen. So now that the road is currently being built, people are asking when it’ll be finished and can’t wait to use it.