Paying a toll to drive along the Hwy. 242 flyover above I-45 south of Conroe will soon be just a memory for commuters.
Montgomery County Commissioners unanimously voted to remove tolls along the Hwy. 242 flyovers at the May 28 meeting, initiating the process.
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough's Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps said the tolling will cease May 28 at midnight, confirmed by Harris County Toll Road Authority.
"As soon as court adjourned, [Keough's] office reached out to HCTRA [and] confirmed midnight's tolling cessation," Millsaps said after the meeting.
“After months and months of negotiating between us and [the Texas Department of Transportation], we’ve got an agreement [for maintenance] if we take the tolls off, and I’m in agreement we’re ready to do that,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said during the meeting. “We finally got a verbal agreement and now we have to make sure we get all this down in writing the way it needs to be. I’m in favor of removing the tolls.”
Millsaps said County Attorney B.D. Griffin will pursue putting an agreement in place to transfer maintenance and operations over to TxDOT over the next 60 days.
“You cannot effectively remove the tolls tomorrow because there are some number of things that need to be taken into account,” Griffin said. “If you vote to remove the tolls and give us the authority to execute and draft appropriate agreements with TxDOT and other entities, which we need to communicate with, we can start that process today.”
Commissioner James Noack said from his talks with TxDOT, the court can take action to have the tolls stopped at any time.
“We’ve already done the inspection [and] given us written feedback,” Noack said. “I’d like the motion to remove tolls.”
Griffin said the county has the ability to change the tolls, but Harris County has 60 days to act on that, and it could take up to four months to terminate the contract with the Harris County Toll Road Authority.
Riley asked Griffin to get drafts out in 30 days, and the attorney said he would start the same day to get drafts out quickly.
"There may be [toll] signs up, and the [toll] units will obviously still be there and have flashes," said Assistant County Attorney John McKinney over the phone after the meeting.
Two citizens spoke during public comment in favor of the toll removal, including Reagan Reed, Houston correspondent for nonprofit Empower Texas, who read a statement from the Republican Executive Committee of Montgomery County.
“In 2020, we won’t have straight ticket voting–candidates in the party are going to have to be active,” Reed said. “The opportunity to deliver on this issue is really popular and will give us something, give y’all something we can take to the voters.”
In other news Tuesday, commissioners:
- Recognized six staff members and their dependents who earned $500-$1,000 in county employee scholarships.
- Recognized that County Engineer Mark Mooney is retiring after 34 years of service June 1, a tenure Commissioner Meador said will likely never be surpassed. Commissioners appointed Jeff Johnson, currently a traffic engineering manager, to take up the position in June.
- Voted 4-1 in favor of adding a license plate reader to an I-45 weigh station, with Keough voting against the measure, citing privacy rights. Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson said he would never install one in a residential neighborhood—only along major thoroughfares.