Houston Community Newspapers 4/8/14 By Crystal Simmons
A tight budget paired with a rapidly growing region is changing the way county government funds transportation, according to Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle.
During the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic forum, Cagle said Texas is attracting nearly 1000 new people every day. Of those, 200 are coming to Harris County and 40 percent of those are coming to Precinct 4, he said. Between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2013, The US Census Bureau reports Harris County added 243,688 people, more than double any other county in the state.
While taxpayers demand roadways that can accommodate the growing number of drivers, lawmakers at the state level can’t agree on a way to pay for them. With roadways strained to the limits and drivers pushed to their breaking points, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said the county has had to get smart about the way it funds transportation.
“Two years ago, 249 had been taken off the table,” said Cagle. “They said that the expansion would never occur. Yet there were these persistent people in Tomball who said, ‘We need this. Can you make this happen?’”
The county began to reanalyze what it could do, he said. Because the state could not afford to take on the project, the county purchased the right of way and made a plan for a new tollway
In June 2011 the county added the toll road to its CIP project list and the project broke ground last September.
Now, the first phase of the $95 million project is estimated to be complete in 2015, he said. In phase 1, three toll lanes within the existing 249 corridor will extend from south of Spring Cypress Road to just north of FM 2920 in each direction. The project will go hand in hand with a direct connector from southbound 249 to westbound Sam Houston Tollway, a $25 million project scheduled to begin in May.