New toll roads to ease Ft. Bend Co. congestion

October 3, 2011 4:37:48 PM PDT
Traffic headaches are nothing new in Fort Bend County, but a new project hopes to get a handle on the issue before it gets worse. And while the plan could eventually improve the commute, it will take a toll on drivers.

This is one of the first two toll overpasses to be built on the Grand Parkway; there will be nine overall to help ease traffic congestion brought on by explosive growth.

In Ft. Bend County, the population grew 65 percent between 2000 and 2010.

"It's still running about 15,000 to 18,000 new residents a year," said Ft. Bend Co. Judge Robert Hebert.

And the average income jumped 10 percent between 2007 and 2008 -- the year the great recession began.

"It is getting more busier everywhere in this area," said resident Shahnaz Nasir.

Traffic is already a problem.

"I've seen more traffic on the toll road in the morning. I have to leave earlier because I work in Houston," said resident Anita Mercier.

So Judge Hebert and other Ft. Bend Co. leaders are trying to get a handle on some of it now with this project. The county took over building toll overpasses on the Grand Parkway between the Southwest Freeway and the Katy Freeway from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

"Under Senate Bill 792, we were allowed to assume primacy on those segments of the Grand Parkway in our county and we have a desperate need to improve capacity," Judge Hebert said.

Nine of them in all to bypass the stoplights on the Grand Parkway -- for a fee.

"I think it'll probably be in the range of 30 to 35 cents per overpass," said the judge.

It's not necessarily news some Ft. Bend Co. drivers want to hear.

"I feel I pay enough in taxes already," said resident Tommy Blevins.

Although the feeder road will remain free.

"I'll just stay on the service road and I won't have to pay the toll," said resident Damon Cross.

It's all scheduled to be done in two years. And given the plans for new subdivisions and more retail, it's a necessity.

"The projections are that Ft. Bend will pass the 1 million population by 2025," said Judge Hebert.

The project will cost about $10.5 million. The judge says tolls will cover that cost as well as the maintenance of the overpasses.


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