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Another step forward for the Grand Parkway

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.

Before we go any further on this, the phrase “It’s been in the works for years” has been used to brush aside opposition to outlandish schemes like this one many times. Usually what that means is that the developers, speculators, owners of otherwise-worthless land that would need to be bought up, and anyone else with a piece of the pie at stake has been what-iffing about it for years, and now they’ve finally got a sympathetic audience with the powers that be.

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.

Of course it won’t alleviate congestion on local roads. That’s not what it’s designed to do. Look at the map – it’s designed to get people from Katy to the Woodlands and thereabouts. If you’re in Spring and want to get to one of those places it ought to help you, but getting around Spring itself? Forget it.

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.

Most politicians have the grace to leave office before they cash in on their connections like that. You almost have to admire Sen Lindsay’s entrepreneurial spirit.

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9 Comments

  1. Robert Boyd says:

    Wasn’t Lindsay the Harris County judge who envisioned a “megalopolis” stretching from Houston to Beaumont? He LOVES sprawl.

    The Grand Parkway has but one purpose–to enable exurban development. It should therefore be looked on as nothing more than a subsidy for developers.

  2. Anne says:

    “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.”

    I hope it was clear that the criticism was directed at Judge Eckels and not Heights’ residents. I hope Heights’ residents win their fight to keep new roads and expansions out of their neighborhoods.

    And, Sen. Lindsay is a disgrace.

  3. PatricK says:

    Sen. Jon Lindsay is the granddaddy of the Harris County Toll Road Authority, a fact that he proudly mentions on his website.

    http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/members/dist7/dist7.htm

    And for that, he’s not on my Christmas card list.

  4. Anne says:

    “Sen. Jon Lindsay is the granddaddy of the Harris County Toll Road Authority, a fact that he proudly mentions on his website.”

    I wonder if Lindsay’s the one who contructed the HCTRA so that it doesn’t have to bother with public approval, or environmental reports, or city officials, or any other pesky nuisances that might get in the way of HCTRA projects?

  5. Patrick says:

    I wonder if Lindsay’s the one who contructed the HCTRA so that it doesn’t have to bother with public approval, or environmental reports, or city officials, or any other pesky nuisances that might get in the way of HCTRA projects?

    Anne, I would suspect that would be the achievement about which he is most proud.

    I like to think of HCTRA like a computer virus. Before the rightful owner knows it, the operating system is corrupted and the virus is able to operate autonomously while exposing the system to manipulation by the creator of the virus.

  6. connie says:

    Thanks so much Charles, for calling this to the attention of everyone. People in the Houston area sometimes hear “Spring, Texas” and ask where that is or why they should care. Well, on Tuesday, when Harris County Commissioner’s Court handed over $6 Million Dollars to Kellogg, Brown & Root, a division of Halliburton, they might want to start paying attention. That money was TAXPAYER DOLLARS. That’s right, the good people in Houston will be subsidizing a road that they most likely will seldom make use of, a road that will only further subsidize greedy developers who contribute nothing to the building of this road. This is much more updated information available at United to Save Our Spring.

  7. Chris says:

    “The highway would pass within about 1,000 feet of Klein High School and cut across Northwood Catholic’s ball field.”
    That has got to be Klein Oak High not Klein High.

    “You almost have to admire Sen Lindsay’s entrepreneurial spirit”
    or something else

  8. connie says:

    Yes, it is supposed to read Klein Oak High School, not Klein High School. Also, we just got information this past weekend that the Grand Parkway, Segment F-2, Alignment E, also runs less than 2000′ away from the front entrance of Klein ISD’s latest elementary school, Benignus which is just now being built. It does beg the question: What does KISD think about all this?

  9. david says:

    In answering Anne’s question regarding Jon Lindsay contacting HCTRA to enter the Grand Parkway project…the answer is yes. We were told by our state representative that Jon Lindsay clearly told her he asked HCTRA to take on the project because of the opposition she was waging against the project for her constituents. Think about it…all the other segments to be built do not pass through quite as heavily populated areas and are not receiving as much opposition as Segment F-2. This could be the only segment built by HCTRA, and it is strictly being done to circumvent the environmental safeguards and public hearing requirements regulating road projects that use federal money. HCTRA does not have to meet any of these requirements; they can get around public outcry by building it themselves. In addition, Eckels sees this segment as a revenue generating bonanza for the county…they get to keep all tolls collected on Segment F-2 if HCTRA builds it.
    Eckels and his cronies on Commissioners Court have been evasive in meeting with residents of Spring, much like Jon Lindsay. They tell us they will meet with us but then tell us it will have to be much farther down the line (after the project is begun I suspect). This entire project shows what is the worst of Texas politics…Lindsay and Eckels are poster children for the morally bankrupt politicians that turn their backs on the people they are supposed to represent and protect…the ones who voted them into office.