Transportation Updates

Transportation Updates The Grand Parkway[/caption]

The Grand Parkway

Motorists in north Houston who were expecting to use the city’s third outer loop by early 2016 on their daily commutes will have to wait a few more months. Contractor Zachry-Odebrecht Parkway Builders has announced segments F-1, F-2 and G of the Grand Parkway will open sometime in the first quarter of 2016.

“All three segments are scheduled to be open first quarter of 2016,” public information officer Ibette Cavazos said. “We don’t have an exact date yet. Once that becomes available, we’ll share that with the public.”

Originally planned for completion by the end of 2015, segments F-1 and F-2 of the Grand Parkway will consist of tolled roadway from Hwy. 290 to I-45, while Segment G will connect I-45 and Hwy. 59 when completed. Construction of the $1 billion tollway has been funded and overseen by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The Grand Parkway segments will provide additional roadway capacity to help alleviate the increased traffic demand, said officials with Zachry-Odebrecht. However, construction of the project has been hampered due to recent weather conditions.

“The project did encounter setbacks particularly with the heavy rains during the month of May and June,” Cavazos said in an email.

Although the project has been delayed from its original expected completion date, Zachry-Odebrecht achieved a significant milestone in December by setting all of the beams and bridge decks for the project. A total of 121 bridge decks and 3,802 concrete beams were set for the toll road, the company said in a news release.

A project conceived more than 50 years ago, the more than 200-mile tollway will become Houston’s third outer loop when completed. Segment E of the Grand Parkway, from I-10 to Hwy. 290, was completed in December 2013.

Transportation UpdatesTexas Central

Texas Central—the proposed high-speed rail system from Houston to Dallas—received approval in August from the Federal Railroad Administration to use the utility corridor along Hwy. 290 as its route.

The private railway company has since begun a series of meetings with local officials and property owners to appease residents neighboring the route, Texas Central Vice President Travis Kelly said.

The company hopes to learn the concerns of residents who could be affected after the project faced some opposition for its possible use of eminent domain in Montgomery and Grimes counties.

“There was a lot of anxiety [about Texas Central], but the more people learn, the more productive the conversations [became],” Kelly said.

Texas Central hosted the meetings as
a precursor to the process of attaining rights of way in the second quarter of 2016 when the FRA environmental study is completed, Kelly said.

Texas Central announced an agreement with Archer Western Construction and Ferrovial Agroman U.S. Corp. in October to provide engineering, cost-estimation and construction-related activities for $130 million. Combined with $75 million raised in capital in July, the company is halfway toward its goal of securing $400 million before starting construction, which is expected to begin in 2017.   

Texas Central plans to start selling tickets in 2020 and give its first ride in 2021.

Transportation UpdatesHardy Toll Road

The eight improvement projects along the Hardy Toll Road are roughly 25 percent completed, Harris County Toll Road Authority officials said.

HCTRA’s $170 million in improvements to the toll road—which are being funded by toll fees—include widening the tollway from four to six lanes from FM 1960 to the Grand Parkway, an interchange with the Grand Parkway and a conversion to an all-electronic facility. The improvements are still on track for completion by the end of 2016, said Quinton Alberto, assistant director of maintenance and traffic engineering for HCTRA.

Alberto said all entrance ramps along the Hardy Toll Road were converted to all-electronic facilities by the end of the 2015. The contractor is expected to start working on exit ramps in early 2016 with an expected completion in late March.

The Hardy Toll Road will be entirely electronic beginning in June, and motorists will need an EZ Tag to travel the tollway.

The widening of the southbound mainlanes has already begun and should be completed by the summer, Alberto said. Contractors will then begin working on widening the northbound mainlanes.

Transportation UpdatesHwy. 249 Corridor Extension

The 1.5-mile, $175 million Tomball Tollway Phase 2 extension will span six lanes just north of FM 2920 to the Harris County line at Spring Creek. The project is expected to begin construction in January 2017 and should be complete in early 2019, said John Tyler, Harris County Toll Road Authority deputy director of engineering.

The next section of Phase 2, which will extend six lanes from Spring Creek to the area near Woodtrace Boulevard in Pinehurst, could begin construction in mid-2017 and should be complete in early 2019, said Danny Perez, Texas Department of Transportation Houston District public information officer.

TxDOT is constructing the remainder of the 24-mile Hwy. 249 extension in two segments—Phase 3 runs from near Woodtrace Boulevard to FM 1774 near Todd Mission and Phase 4 is from FM 1774 to Hwy. 105 near Navasota.

Phase 3 will be constructed as a four-lane tollway, and Phase 4 will include two lanes with an intermittent passing lane. Pending a public hearing in Grimes County, the segments could open as soon as summer 2019, Perez said.