June 21, 2005
New toll road plan

I'm not seeing anything in the news on this, but apparently the Harris County Commissioner's Court has announced plans for five new toll road corriders. There's a public hearing this morning (oops, sorry about that, well, these things always go more smoothly when they're not well-attended anyway, right?). At the time I post this, Commissioner's Court is supposed to be voting on the plan.

The Citizens' Transportation Coalition and blogHOUSTON have more on this. I've reproduced a CTC press release beneath the fold. I really hope there will be more to be said on this.


(Houston) - CTC has learned that:

. Last Friday, June 17, Harris County published the new 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) which identifies the next 5-7 priority toll road corridors. The document is available on paper at the county offices downtown, but is not yet available online.

. This Tuesday, Harris County commissioners are expected to vote to approve the plan, without public notice at an unpublicized meeting -- Tues June 21 at 9:00 am.

. Commissioners are then expected to vote an hour later at the 10:00 am Commissioners' Court meeting to authorize $192,295 for traffic and feasibility studies for the 5 new priority toll roads.

This is a remarkably fast process with no public notice. How were neighborhoods supposed to learn about new toll roads? When were citizens supposed to weigh in with their county commissioners? CTC will bring neighborhood leaders from Westbury and other Houston neighborhoods to ask Harris County commissioners for meaningful participation in the toll road planning process.

What: Harris County Capital Improvement Plan meeting Neighborhood leaders to address Commissioners' Court

When: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 9:00 am (followed by Court session to approve the plan at 10:00 am)
Where: Harris County Commissioners Court 1001 Preston, 9th floor chamber, Houston, 77002

Under current state law, county toll road authorities (including HCTRA) are NOT required to provide public notice of new plans, hold public meetings in affected neighborhoods, or conduct full environmental reviews for new toll road projects. Harris County's new 5-year CIP identifies $2.16 billion of toll road projects, but highlights five feasible projects as the next ones to be considered:

1. Beltway East Mainlanes.
2. Brazoria County Toll Road from City of Alvin to SH 288 to IH 610, and potentially to US 59.
3. Grand Parkway, Segment E from I-10 to US 290.
4. Hardy Toll Road Extension from IH 610 to downtown.
5. Hempstead Road Managed Lanes from Jones Road to IH 10.

In addition to the above five projects, the plan shows two other projects that could become priorities:

6. Fort Bend Connector from US 90A along Post Oak Blvd to the IH 610 Loop, and
7. Fairmont Parkway/Red Bluff Tollway from SH 146 to Beltway 8.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 21, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

Why is the CTC complaining? They should be celebrating. The projects they oppose are not on the priority list (Fort Bend Parkway extension and Grand Parkway F-2). All the priority projects are long-planned projects with negligible impact to neighborhoods.

It looks like CTC really opposes all highway improvements.

Posted by: MaxConcrete on June 21, 2005 11:10 AM

All Harris County Commissioners Court on-line Agendas require a hefty bandwidth to download and examine through use of private party software - effectively limiting my access. They have no simple efficient HTML choices such as found in blog construction or even their own website construction. Harris County encourages a visit - just don't dig too deep.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 21, 2005 12:59 PM

I can't speak for the CTC, but from my perspective it doesn't matter what is or isn't on the list. What matters is transparency in government, with adequate notice given for the public to comment on projects. And in today's electronic age, adequate notice includes websites. Plus, with the exception of 950KPRC and 740KTRH, there has been no media coverage of this.

It appears as though Harris County did all it could to keep this under the radar, and that's not right.

Posted by: Anne on June 21, 2005 1:25 PM

I'm glad you asked. CTC is a coalition that includes both individuals and neighborhood groups from many parts of the Houston region. While some of those groups support or oppose specific projects, CTC supports public involvement. We're engaged on principle because citizens know their neighborhoods better than anyone. Better public participation makes better projects, and of all the transportation agencies working in our area (TxDOT, CoH, METRO, etc.) the county has hands-down the weakest public participation process.

Posted by: Robin Holzer on June 21, 2005 6:08 PM

Max, you clearly don't get it. The issue that is so frustrating with the Harris County Commissioners Court is not the value of the projects, rather the utter contempt they with which they treat the faintest hint of public comment. If I wanted to live in a f$!king nanny state, I'd move to Singapore.

Furthermore, the local media have become so conditioned to this disdain from the HCCC they don't bother to call them on it anymore.

Posted by: Patrick on June 22, 2005 10:51 AM