Proposed tollway could go through Hermann Park

June 15, 2012 7:01:26 PM PDT
Controversy over a proposal that could allow traffic to buzz above one of the city's most popular parks. We've got the details of a highway project that could take a toll on Hermann Park.

When the Texas Department of Transportation allotted millions for toll road projects around Harris County, a lot of people saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But people who visit Hermann Park are having problems with the fine print.

Over its nearly 100 year history, Hermann Park has seen the city grow. Its closest neighbor, the Texas Medical Center, has risen around it and added a lot of traffic.

Recently, Harris County and TxDOT signed an agreement that allows for a toll lanes on highway 288. As part of that, the idea of an elevated ramp -- a flyover for traffic at the Medical Center -- is being studied and it could soar above and through a section of Hermann Park.

"It doesn't sound like too good of an idea. I come out here a lot," golfer Ryan Hendricks said.

Friday was the deadline for public comment to the Houston-Galveston Area Council on what is called Candidate Projects for Supplemental Funding. Of the 75 comments received, 72 were in opposition to the Hermann Park toll road ramp.

"I ride this trail all the time so anything that would mess with that would be awful," cyclist Ohil Butcher said.

The city parks director wrote a letter of opposition, stating the need to keep the park intact, and the Southampton Civic Club sent out an email urging members to protest the proposed project. The route under study is on North MacGregor, right across from the golf club.

"You'll take up a lot of space with the trails, the park and biking trails," golfer Jeroid Mays.

While the funding may be there, the med center connector project is far from shovel ready; it is still in the study phase according to TxDOT.

"What impacts are there to the park, how that structure looks, what mitigation may be necessary in terms of noise, and aesthetics, it's still all up for discussion and communication," said Raquelle Lewis with TxDOT.

More public comment will be solicitation.

Meanwhile, the study phase of this project may soon begin.

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