Hardy Toll Road expansion project to downtown passes after being in the works for years

Rosie Nguyen Image
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Hardy Toll Road expansion now closer to reality after plan approved
The proposed expansion of the Hardy Toll Road from the I-610 North Loop to downtown Houston was approved by Harris County commissioners on Tuesday.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After decades of planning, the Hardy Toll Road extension project will finally move forward. Harris County commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday's plan after adding multiple neighborhood improvement requests.

Right now, the Hardy Toll Road ends at the I-610 North Loop. The extension project would add two toll lanes, spanning 3.6 miles in each direction, for a new connector to downtown Houston, allowing drivers to exit Elysian or I-69.

This comes after the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) relocated railroad tracks to another corridor nearby to create space for the new connector to downtown.

The project has been in its planning phase since 1999. Neighbors raised concerns about what living next to a highway would mean for their community. When officials hesitated to approve the plans due to public outcry, HCTRA held community meetings for two years to get feedback and input from residents.

"We were concerned about traffic. We were concerned about how it would benefit our community because our community is right down the street from downtown. But it has also been considered as a forgotten community," Lorenzo Jones, president of Hardy Community Outreach, said.

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In their updated plan, HCTRA will now add several neighborhood amenities along the way, such as parks, bike trails, community centers, sound walls, and highway entrance/exit ramps.

Jones, who has been part of these discussions and conversations with project managers, said he was satisfied with the additions.

"For us to have our organization go over to HCTRA's office and for them to come to the community meetings and allow us to give input was a blessing in disguise. It was greatly needed," Jones said. "This HCTRA facility will allow us to have after-school programs for the kids and provide a place where they can play sports."

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Despite these agreements, there are still concerns about the impact of the extension. Environmental advocates such as Air Alliance Houston said the new highway could increase the community's air pollution.

As a result, county commissioners told HCTRA that it needs to work with other agencies like Metro and Harris County Pollution Control to monitor the area's air quality.

HCTRA told ABC13 that the timeline still appears to be about four years for everything to be completed. They said construction will happen in phases, meaning crews will work on a few blocks at a time so that people living along the 3.6 miles won't be impacted over the entire course of the project.

For more information, visit the Hardy Downtown Connector website.

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