Grand Parkway project up for debate

January 11, 2011 10:19:00 AM PST
The commissioners court is considering handing back the Grand Parkway project to the state after getting control just 15 months ago. That move was made because there was concern that TxDOT didn't have the money to build it ,which it now says it does have. The idea back then was that the county would take over the parkway project section E that starts at Franz Road and goes through the Katy Prairie, and the county would benefit from toll revenues.

There are a number of speed bumps that made the acquisition of the project undesirable for the county -- the biggest issue is the disagreement between the state and the county about the use of the toll money. Harris County commissioners did not want it to be used outside the county. They also wanted to reserve the right to use the funds for drainage projects and other environmental impact issues they say go hand in hand with the operation of the parkway. But the state said all toll revenue collected on the parkway needed to be spent on the parkway itself.

This agenda item, if passed, would waive the county's right to build local Grand Parkway segments, handing the baton back to the state. County Judge Ed Emmett and activists who felt the project was unnecessary are in favor of the move because it frees up the county to focus on other areas which they say need more attention, like the Highway 290 corridor between Loop 610 and Cypress, where traffic congestion is a big problem.

TxDOT will also be challenged to pay back the Harris County Toll Road Authority for its initiation costs on the Grand Parkway Project Segment E, and ask for the state to begin construction on the Grand Parkway segments in the county in 2011.