Guaranteed is that not one, but several roadways near your home and business are on the construction timetable. All the Westheimers, Bellaires, Dairy-Ashfords and beyond are set for major expansion. But the 11,733 new lane miles in there are not going to expand over Joe Farmer's cotton crop anymore. We're talking about shopping malls, dentist offices and back yards these days.
Some of the projects are not on the block until several years from now. But do not let this long-term time frame mask projects' urgency. This is the transportation world, where politicians use "that project's been in the plan for years" and "we've already spent millions on planning" rationalizations. Indeed, a Pearland City Council member told this paper that the Pearland project had been on the books for 20 years.
Someone is going to have to pay for the plan's very dramatic increase in expenditures. The published road costs add up to $2 billion per year, a more than doubling of annual road costs over the last long-term transportation plan approved by the council (Metropolitan Transportation Plan 2022). And that does not include full right-of-way costs, which planners have not and cannot fully calculate until they're actually purchasing properties.
I have been able to identify that this plan includes over $9 billion in new, added-capacity road projects, which is twice as much as the Metro Solutions $4.2 billion voter-approved rail and bus projects (both numbers are nominal and do not include recurring costs such as operations and maintenance).
To help pay for such an increase in spending, the Regional Transportation Plan cites revolutionary toll-road law changes as new funding sources. Those laws free up the government to charge fees on existing roads (and toll roads) and subsequently use that revenue to build new road capacity within the region.
The government also estimates additional revenue will come from population growth generating new property, sales and gas tax dollars that help pay for our roads. But bet on shelling out on toll roads: They are the Viagra necessary for road-powered politicians.
Thankfully, it looks like some people have finally gotten a sense of perspective about the RTP and its ever-skyrocketing price tag.
Art Storey, Harris County's public infrastructure director, said at Friday's Transportation Policy Council meeting that to him a plan means "one that is a reasonable, doable, sensible thing that really might be accomplished in someone's lifetime, or at least that of our grandchildren. This is a plan that is numbered over $100 billion.
"To call it a plan, I just take issue with that."