The expansion of the Grand Parkway from a little state highway in Katy to a zillion-mile mega-loop took another step forward this week.
Despite pleas from Spring residents who oppose the road, Commissioners Court gave the Harris County Toll Road Authority permission Tuesday to spend $5.6 million to plot the route of a possible toll road in the north part of the county.
The county has not committed to building the road, which would be part of the Grand Parkway, a 182-mile super loop around Houston that has been planned for decades.
The county is looking at a possible 52-mile tollway from Interstate 10 on the west side to U.S. 59 near Porter. The expenditure approved Tuesday was to plot 40 miles from U.S. 290 to U.S. 59.
Most opposition involves a 14-mile section between Texas 249 and Interstate 45, said Commissioner Jerry Eversole, whose Precinct 4 includes much of the area where the road would be built.
One plan calls for this section to be built through the Forest North and Mossy Oaks subdivisions in Spring. The highway would pass within about 1,000 feet of Klein High School and cut across Northwood Catholic's ball field.
Opponents say the toll road would do little or nothing to alleviate congestion on local roads.
Anne, who lives in Spring, is unhappy about this proposal, and points to some useful discussion of alternatives that might actually benefit Spring. She also notes that the folks in my neighborhood got better treatment from the County Commissioners after the ridiculous Heights toll road idea was floated. True enough, but remember, we've got other road-expansion threats to deal with as well.
(UPDATE: To be clear, Anne's criticism was aimed County Judge Robert Eckels. I don't think I had conveyed that notion properly.)
I'm actually amazed at how many grassroots opposition groups there are to this project. It's got to be a bit tough to do, since this monster road passes through so many areas, with so many politicians to lobby about it. More info can be found in this Houston Architecture Forum thread.
One last thing:
County officials rejected state Sen. Jon Lindsay's offer to work for the county as a consultant who would try to persuade north Harris County developers to donate land for the project.
Lindsay, a Republican who represents much of the area where the segment would be built, has long supported the Grand Parkway.
He said he met last year with 14 developers who own land between Texas 249 and I-45. About 10 of the developers agreed to donate land to the county for the toll road, Lindsay said.
With that land, the toll road could have been built without traversing as many Spring residential areas as called for under TxDOT plans, he said.
Lindsay said he met with [Commissioner Jerry] Eversole and other officials in the fall and tried to sell them on hiring him as a consultant.
He would have asked the county to pay him about $5,000 or $6,000 a month for his services, Lindsay said.
"I told them I was not going to do it gratis. It was too much work," he said.
County officials balked at the proposal, saying it could appear to be improper for the county to hire a state senator to lobby developers who were his business acquaintances or friends and who would benefit from the highway's construction, Lindsay said. "I did not understand where the conflict of interest was, just because I was a senator," he said.