Photo by Fred Wilson
With revenue studies complete, the Harris County and Montgomery County toll road authorities have opted to move forward with the Hwy. 249 project to create a six-lane toll road from Spring Cypress Road to FM 1774 in Magnolia.
Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said he hopes to have constrction started on phase one of the project, which goes from Northpointe Boulevard to FM 2920, by the fall of 2013. Phase two, from FM 2920 to the Montgomery County border, would follow.
“We have moved beyond asking 'Are we going to do this?' to actually planning how we are going to do this,” Cagle said.
The overall plan involves extending the highway through Montgomery County up to FM 1774. While that portion will be completed later on by MCTRA, Cagle said HCTRA will help out with some of the financing. HCTRA estimates the cost for both phases will be roughly $335 million.
“Harris County is a little stronger financially, and we can improve the traffic on our part by helping Montgomery County do their part,” he said, “Even though it's in a different county, it still leads to an overall improvement in mobility for us.”
HCTRA was authorized by the Harris County Commissioners Court to start negotiating engineering service agreements at its Aug. 7 meeting.
Additional details on the road will be become more clear throughout the design process, Cagle said. The project will be financed by revenue bonds, which will be paid off using revenues from tolls.
“This project is so strongly demanded and desired that the toll revenues generated will allow it to pay for itself,” Cagle said.
Toll roads will be EZ tag only. The rates will be the standard for Harris County toll roads, which will be $1.40 as of Sept. 8. The free road will still be available. Drivers using the free road will also benefit from the traffic shifting to the toll road, Cagle said.
John Fishero, chairman of the 249 Partnership, a community organization dedicated to promoting the importance of extending Hwy. 249, said he is glad to see the project moving forward.
“We are excited about the rapid development in trying to get this done,” he said. “We think it will be a huge benefit to removing the big backlog of traffic between Spring Cypress and Tomball every day.”
Fishero said long-term hopes for Hwy. 249 involve extending the toll road through Magnolia and along Hwy. 6 to Navasota. The 249 Partnership, which works directly with the public to educate and inform, will continue to help in any way it can with the development, he said.