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The Grand Parkway takes another inevitable step forward

No money to fix traffic lights, but there’s always money for the Grand Parkway.

Commissioners Court on Tuesday authorized the Harris County Toll Road Authority to negotiate with the Texas Department of Transportation over the development of three Grand Parkway segments inside Harris County with a total length of more than 40 miles. Segment E, which would run roughly from Interstate 10 to U.S. 290, is next up for construction.

State legislation gives Harris County two years after it receives federal permits to start building. It has not yet received those permits, but the county won a lawsuit that challenged the project on environmental grounds.

“If we come to an agreement, then Harris County will build it, then we’ll start as soon as possible, perhaps next year,” County Judge Ed Emmett. “If for some reason we can’t come to an agreement, then it’s TxDOT’s highway again, but I think an agreement can be reached.”

Yes, I know, it’s not a straight up trade of traffic signals for speculative toll roads in the middle of nowhere, but it’s instructive nonetheless. The problem many people have with the Grand Parkway is that it’s being built to address the perceived future traffic needs of people who will eventually move to this currently empty part of the county. The reason these people are projected to live there some day is, of course, because of this big honking road that’s going to be built first. It’s all very neat. Point being, Commissioners Court has for a long time now been committed to addressing the future needs of these future residents, even as the present day needs of people who are already here are being sacrificed. It’s a matter of priorities, and as far as the Grand Parkway is concerned those priorities have always been warped.

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5 Comments

  1. Peter Wang says:

    I hope it gets tossed back over to TxDOT. GP E will fall quite a bit lower on their priority list than, say, US 290.

  2. Tory says:

    While I can see arguments for both sides on the GP, the argument you just used against it could have been used against most of the freeways in Houston at the time, inc. 610 and BW8. If they weren’t planned in advance, the land wouldn’t have been available to build them when they were eventually needed (and we’d be seriously regretting their nonexistence – like, say, Austin w/ jammed I35 and no real loop). But by planning them in advance, people build anticipating their eventual development. Kind of a Catch 22. But overall, I’d say Houston has been more successful than most with infrastructure foresight (inc. IAH and the port). Not perfect, but relatively good.

  3. jost says:

    The trick would be to find out who owns the land that the Parkway will go through. I have heard many times from many folks that a certain ex-Mayor owned a bunch of the land that the Beltway went through. Seems it can be advantageous to own the land on both sides of a major traffic artery.

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