Let’s say you found $350 million and wanted to do a great transportation project for the Houston region. Would you build a 400-foot-wide 15-mile segment of new highway across the Katy Prairie where almost no one lives or works in order to enable a lot of new sprawl development? Or would you build new commuter rail service on the tracks paralleling US 290 to serve nearly a million people today?
Or would you use it to do a bunch of projects that we don’t otherwise have money for right now, like re-build State Highway 6 and FM1960 from I-10 to I-45? If you do all the fixes that are proposed for that corridor, you’d have $315 million left. What then? Do 2920? Provide Bus Rapid Transit express service on 1960?
There’s more you can do
See the next section for background, and then go to the bottom for info about a public comment session you can attend, and how to submit comments in writing by email, phone, or postal service.
$350 Million “Found” for SH99 Toll Road
The Texas Transportation Commission, which “found” this $350 million (in the midst of vast handwringing and angst about having no money for new TxDOT projects) wants to spend it all on building some more of the 186-mile long State Highway 99 (branded as Le Grande Parkway) around the netherlands of the Houston region, a $6 billion project that touches only three (Mont Belvieu, Alvin, Baytown) of the region’s 134 towns and cities, which is where most of the people live. Nor does it approach any of the top 25 job centers in the region, where most of the people work.
Billy Burge, who chairs the effort to build it, told StreetsBlog that right now there isn’t much need for the segment, in terms of traffic, and “It will increase sprawl but that’s really the reason people come to Houston.” But Burge and the sprawl lobby, led by Parkway Investments CEO Ned Holmes (who is also a TTC Commissioner) says this has to go forward right now is that Exxon Mobil wants it, and soon. The company is anxious to move its US headquarters out of the City of Houston into unincorporated Harris County, and Harris County’s elected officials are presumably thrilled about that.
It’s exciting that TTC has found this $350 million, but it raises this ugly question: Is SH 99 the best way to spend it? The projected cost of the US 290 commuter rail line is $348 million, so if you used it for that you’d have $2,000 left over. Or how much would a new express bus service on Westheimer/Elgin from Cinco Ranch to Mykawa cost? Or Bus Rapid Transit service on I-10 from Katy to Baytown?
TXDOT Public Meeting
And while you’re thinking about it, be sure to consider going to TxDOT’s public meeting to talk about the 2011-2014 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) on Wednesday May 25. TxDOT says “All interested citizens are invited to attend and express their views on the program.”
You can go here to get deep info about the STIP.
The meeting is from 4-6 pm, Wednesday, May 25, at the TxDOT–Houston District Auditorium, 7600 Washington Avenue. Be sure to go and talk about how you’d like them to spend that $350 million.
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