Is the Toll Road Authority feeling a bit defensive?

The Harris County Toll Road Authority has sent out a press release trying to temper the idea that it is taking over the Spring segment of the Grand Parkway. I'll reprint the entire release in the extended entry and highlight one paragraph here:

The Harris County Toll Road Authority has no plans to circumvent the right of the public to be heard in this matter, and restates that the Grand Parkway project is still under the state’s jurisdiction and is subject to their public hearing guidelines. As HCTRA is a department under the authority of Harris County Commissioners’ Court, the public does have the opportunity to address their comments and concerns on this or any other issue directly to Commissioners at regularly scheduled Commissioners’ Court meetings. Dates and times for these meetings are available on the internet, as is the contact number to schedule appearances before the Court.

Right. The current spate of publicity pointing out that HCTRA can do practically whatever it wants, whenever it wants must be unwelcome.

But since HCTRA says it is open to public input, let's put that to the test: HCTRA should begin holding monthly, evening meetings at Klein Oak High School which is in the path of one proposed Grand Parkway alignment, so the local citizens who would be most affected by the Grand Parkway can voice their opinions. And don't tell Spring residents to go to Commissioners Court. Spring isn't right around the corner from 1001 Preston, Suite 938, Houston TX, and holding meetings on a weekday morning is NOT what I would call constituent-friendly.

Let's get those county commissioners, including Jerry Eversole who represents Spring, to the area that would be wiped out by the Grand Parkway. Let's get the commissioners face-to-face with the many people whose homes would be razed and otherwise affected.

And if HCTRA is really all for public input, then I would expect it to come out against state Sen. Jon Lindsay's proposed bill that would allow some road building regulations to be circumvented.

And if HCTRA wants to know why folks in Spring are so concerned about being run over by a bunch of bulldozers, think Hardy Toll Road. Here's one excerpt from Houston Freeways that makes it all crystal clear:

If any major transportation facility in Houston can be attributed to the efforts of one individual, it is the Hardy Toll Road. Jon Lindsay made this project happen. Not only did then Harris County Judge Lindsay make the Hardy Toll Road happen, but he did it in the face of substantial opposition to the project. Building an all-new, limited-access transportation facility is a big accomplishment in the modern era. Doing it nearly single-handedly is even more impressive.

Ugh. And who is the Number One Champion of the Grand Parkway being built through Spring? Yep:

Lindsay said he is doing what it takes to get the Grand Parkway built expeditiously through the Spring area, and it may mean taking the state transportation department out of the equation.

Development of Grand Parkway Project Continues to be a TxDOT Project; HCTRA Studies a Supporting Role as an Implementing Partner

The Grand Parkway project, which has been on government planning documents since the early 1960s, opened Segment D between US-59 (near Sugar Land) to I-10 (near Katy) in August of 1994. As the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) determined that due to economic conditions and budgetary constraints affecting TxDOT’s ability to continue with the project, and in order to expedite the completion of the Grand Parkway through the possible use of toll financing, by way of an April, 2003 Minute Order (Number 109226) TTC requested Harris County to conduct traffic and revenue studies on portions of the Grand Parkway. The purpose of these studies is to determine the feasibility of developing segments of the Grand Parkway as toll facilities, as allowed by House Bill 3545 and Senate Bill 1463.

In response to TxDOT’s request for HCTRA’s involvement as an implementing partner, on January 25, 2005 Harris County Commissioners’ Court approved engineering services agreements with three consulting firms to study Grand Parkway Segments F-1 (between US-290 and SH-249); F-2 (between SH-249 and I-45 North); and Segment G (I-45 North to US-59 North). While preliminary alignments have been proposed in these segments, the purpose of these supplemental studies is to determine the feasibility of constructing these segments as toll facilities; determine economically viable and perhaps alternate routes that would have minimal impact on existing communities and the environment in the area and still provide accessibility to ensure projected ridership requirements; determine estimated construction costs, right-of-way requirements and estimated purchase costs as well as utility adjustments; structural design and roadway geometrics including entrances, exits etc.

As part of the approved studies which are now being conducted at TxDOT’s request, engineering firms contracted through HCTRA have issued “right-of-entry letters” to residents advising them of the need to survey their property. These surveys will assist TxDOT in determining the feasibility of proposed Grand Parkway alignments currently under consideration, and help determine the feasibility and location of possible alternate routes. Their findings will also help establish the feasibility of a future HCTRA partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation in further development of this project should such be requested by TxDOT. Residents and commercial property owners who have received this right-of-entry letter should be assured that as of this date, HCTRA’s involvement in this project is that of an implementing partner and through these studies is only assisting in a supportive role for this TxDOT project.

Most of the engineering studies are expected to be completed by year’s end and if the project is determined to be economically feasible, segments could possibly be under construction in the next three years; however, construction can begin only after TxDOT completes its environmental impact and public review process, adopts a route and determines if it will be built by the State or they will contract with HCTRA at a future date to design and construct any or all of the segments.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority has no plans to circumvent the right of the public to be heard in this matter, and restates that the Grand Parkway project is still under the state’s jurisdiction and is subject to their public hearing guidelines. As HCTRA is a department under the authority of Harris County Commissioners’ Court, the public does have the opportunity to address their comments and concerns on this or any other issue directly to Commissioners at regularly scheduled Commissioners’ Court meetings. Dates and times for these meetings are available on the internet, as is the contact number to schedule appearances before the Court.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/27/05 04:21 PM | Print |

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