BREAKING: Research Forest Drive underpass not to be submitted to H-GAC, local entities agree to independent study

Brown & Gay Engineers recomended a Research Forest underpass as the best solution for the intersection of Research Forest Drive and Grogans Mill Road.

Brown & Gay Engineers recomended a Research Forest underpass as the best solution for the intersection of Research Forest Drive and Grogans Mill Road.

Local officials opted not to submit the proposed $24 million Research Forest Drive underpass for funding consideration to the Houston-Galveston Area Council 2018 Call for Transportation Improvement Program projects, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack announced in a press release Nov. 1. The deadline to submit projects in the 2018 Call for TIP was Oct. 31 at 5 p.m.

According to the release, Noack, along with Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler and The Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch have instead, agreed to an independent study along Research Forest Drive to further identify mobility challenges and solutions based on updated traffic projections on the corridor.

“Noack and Riley, Wheeler and Bunch are committed to projects that not only improve mobility in Montgomery County, but also protect quality of life of our residents,” the press release stated. “That is why they have agreed to hold off on submitting the WRUD’s underpass proposal to the H-GAC’s Transportation Improvement Program Call for Projects to ensure the best solution moving forward.”

The independent study will study travel patterns and congestion along the east-west corridor, which runs through both The Woodlands and Shenandoah between Gosling Road and I-45, according to the release. The study will also analyze the intersection of Lake Woodlands Drive and Grogans Mill Road.

According to Noack, the study will be funded by Montgomery County precincts 2 and 3 and will be conducted by Strand Associates Inc., an engineering firm based out of Brenham. While a cost estimate and timeline on the study have not yet been determined, Noack said the study will begin as soon as the entities receive updated traffic counts they have requested, which are expected to be conducted over the next couple of weeks.

"In order to best serve our constituents, we want a new study conducted by an independent engineering firm that has not performed contracted work for any of the entities involved," Noack said. "It is important to get a fresh set of eyes and possible new ideas for improvement plans at the Research Forest Drive [and] Grogans Mill Road, and Lake Woodlands Drive [and] Grogans Mill Road intersections."

The proposed underpass, which has received mixed reviews from residents and elected officials over the last several months, would construct a six-lane underpass on Research Forest Drive beneath Grogans Mill Road, converting the existing four interchanges into two, while keeping the existing at-grade lanes. The proposed project has been recommended by Brown & Gay Engineers, Inc. and The Woodlands Development Company.

While the underpass has letters of support from The Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1, Montgomery County Precinct 3, the city of Shenandoah and The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, The Woodlands Township opted not to approve a resolution of support for the project Oct. 24.

Additionally, more than 500 residents in The Woodlands and Shenandoah have signed an online petition against the proposed underpass, as of Nov. 1.

"Taking into account the questions from residents and businesses along that corridor, as well as updated traffic counts from the Houston-Galveston Area Council, it is incumbent upon these governmental entities to ensure that the new independent study shows the most effective solution to improve the 'failing' and 'unacceptable' levels of service at this intersection, as shown in previous studies, while also creating a safer roadway," the press release stated.

If the project had been submitted to the H-GAC's TIP and selected for funding, approximately $16.84 million would have been awarded in federal funding for the project, while the remaining $7.22 million local match would be funded from Montgomery County and the WRUD.
By Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.


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