Photo by Tamra Santana
Toll authority leads mobility growth
Montgomery County‚Äôs first toll road is under construction on Hwy. 242 and I-45.
With the first toll roads under construction in Montgomery County—two flyovers at Hwy. 242 and I-45—and more potential toll roads in the county being considered to handle area congestion and growth, the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority will lead the county’s future transportation growth.
The Montgomery County Toll Road Authority was established three years ago during the development of the county’s first toll roads. It is led by Montgomery County Judge Alan Sadler and the county’s four commissioners—Mike Meador from Precinct 1, Craig Doyal from Precinct 2, James Noack from Precinct 3 and Ed Rinehart from Precinct 4.
Montgomery County’s explosive population growth during the past decade has caused congested roadways throughout the region. Expanding current roads and building new roadways is essential as the area continues to grow, Montgomery County officials said. However, because of the $4 billion shortfall in the Texas Department of Transportation budget, any new roads built in the county will almost exclusively have to be toll roads, Doyal said.
“TxDOT doesn’t have enough funding to maintain their existing roadways,” Doyal said. “There is simply not enough dollars to build new roads without generating new revenue from toll facilities.”
There has been some talk about possibly appointing a five-member board to oversee the MCTRA instead of the commissioners once the toll roads are operating and generating revenue. Although the MCTRA does not have regular planned meetings, the agency meets as needed to discuss where toll roads should be built.
“It’s important to determine where they’d be the most cost effective,” Doyal said. “There’s a great deal of consideration given to the viability of the toll road before construction.”
Construction began in May on the $34 million flyover at Hwy. 242 and I-45 and is expected to be complete in November 2014.
“It will allow northbound traffic on 1-45 to directly access 242 without having to exit the freeway and go through a traffic signal,” Doyal said. “The flyover will help so there’s no disruption of that traffic flow. And southbound on I-45, it will move all that traffic out under the bridge and relieve much of the congestion that’s there.”
Commissioners on the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority and several other area officials have identified additional projects and problem areas to be studied by the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s transportation study of the area. The study, which should be completed by spring of 2014, will examine transportation concerns across South Montgomery County.
Sadler suggested studying the feasibility of toll roads, particularly one connecting the planned Grand Parkway to Hwy. 242, which could expand further north to Hwy. 105. Another potential toll road could stretch northwest into Montgomery County.
Sadler said he believes toll roads could provide funding for transportation projects that will be difficult to obtain from bond referendums, tax increases and TxDOT.
Noack said the county hired Pate Transportation Partners to study the toll road feasibility, but he abstained from the vote because the study was not vetted.
“We do need to plan,” Noack said. “I’m not a big believer that toll roads are the right way to go or the only way to go. They’re a possibility.”
Additional reporting by Shawn Arrajj and Matt Stephens