Plans for improving transportation in northern Brazoria County could include bringing mass transit to Pearland and Alvin, according to The Houston Chronicle:
In Pearland, that could mean bringing a light rail line down from Houston and putting a station at the Lower Kirby Urban Center, a master-planned community that is still in the development stages that would be located on the north side of Pearland near the intersection of Beltway 8 and Texas 288.
Pearland City Councilman Greg Hill favors the idea, noting that it would ease traffic concerns for the residents of his city that travel to the Texas Medical Center.
“If you take a look at the numbers with respect to all of the folks that live in Pearland and work in the Medical Center, there needs to be something to effectuate travel in that regard,” he said. “What they have proposed, a light rail in the lower Kirby area, is good.”
Hill’s comments came at a public workshop sponsored by the Houston-Galveston Area Council to discuss a regional transportation plan. The notion of putting in light rail was one of several plans to improve mobility in northern Brazoria County.
Improving traffic between Pearland and the Medical Center is important, because most of its employees live in Brazoria County.
“Hands down, the preferred location for employees is Pearland and northern Brazoria County,” said Reid Mrsny, vice president for facilities and engineering at the Medical Center.
Getting a handle on traffic is important, Mrsny said.
“There are approximately 92,000 employees of the member institutions at the Medical Center that go back and forth every day,” he said. “We’re hoping to help with that flow of employees. On top of that are the patients and students. About 150,000 to 160,000 people come and go from the Medical Center every day.”
In Alvin, the mass transit envisioned would be an express service that would take riders from the center of town and whisk them north.
“The express service might be a train, it might be a bus (in a dedicated lane) that would be able to go at a high rate of speed, stopping at a limited number of places going into Houston,” said Paul Moore of transportation consulting company Aecom, which is working with the H-GAC to devise a transit plan.
Easing the traffic congestion in that area is a major concern for Stacy Adams, Precinct 3 Brazoria County commissioner.
“With the growth we know is coming, we have to keep doing these studies so we can keep ahead of the ball game,” he said.
“On the east side of the county, we have to keep making improvements to (Texas) 35 so that Alvin and Pearland don’t become a bottleneck between the Port of Freeport and Beltway 8,” Adams said.
Brazoria County’s population was 313,166 in 2010 and is projected to hit 384,000 in 2020 and 496,000 in 2035.
“There is so much empty space after you get out of Pearland and it is going to be full,” Adams said. “It’s just a matter of when.”
Aside from the large number of people expected to move to the region, traffic will also be impacted by growth at the Port of Freeport.
“The Panama Canal expansion is going to get wider and deeper and (bring more ships to the) Port of Freeport,” Hill said. “It’s going to get more people coming up the (Texas) 288 corridor. It could get bigger than the Port of Houston. At least, that’s what the experts are saying.”
That, in turn, will move traffic congestion further south.
“There is a lengthening of the axis of importance between northern Brazoria County, the Texas Medical Center and points south,” said Hans-Michael Ruthe of H-GAC.
Being prepared for that requires forward thinking now, Hill said.
“We’ve got to do something about infrastructure,” the councilman said. “If you look at those population forecasts, you’re going to have a lot of (ticked) off people. You sit in traffic for hours on end already. With the way the population is projected, you’ve got to prepare and plan now.”