Houston Community Newspapers/Tomball 6/16/14 10:09 pm By Crystal Simmons

Harris County Commissioners voted to redefine the terms of a 2012 memorandum of understanding with the state originally intended to accelerate the U.S. 290 project by at least 17 years.
The new agreement ends all Harris County Toll Road Authority work on the reversible lane concept and gives the state a new revenue source through toll lanes.
While the original plan would have worked, the new plan benefits motorists more in the long-run, said Judge Ed Emmett.
“It is prudent on the part of both agencies to constantly look for ways to improve and enhance the projects we are working to deliver,” said TxDOT spokesperson Karen Othon. “In this case we mutually believe a reallocation of resources and responsibility is the way forward.”
While the state will lose county resources, the project should remain on schedule, said Othon.
“Nine active contracts are under construction from the interchange at I-610 to Mueschke Road,” she said. “TxDOT does not foresee any interruption in ongoing construction activities. The final lane striping and barriers will be placed towards the end of the construction, which is estimated in 2017.”
In the original agreement, the county and TxDOT planned to work together to complete US 290 projects from IH 610 to SH 99 by 2017. The interim plan included four general purpose lanes inbound and outbound with two to three reversible managed lanes carrying HOV and tolled traffic in the center.
The new terms, proposed by Harris County Infrastructure Director Art Storey, reduces the county’s role and its bill by $200 million – half of the original $400 million pledged by the county. In return, TxDOT receives primacy and toll rights over the Hempstead and Katy corridors. TxDOT will also receive the Katy Managed Lanes while HCTRA will retain 1/3 of toll revenues.
Othon said TxDOT will own, operate and maintain those toll facilities.
It is unclear how the new agreement will affect the two to three tolled reversible lanes along U.S. 290. According to Othon, TxDOT is still working on the details. However, she said the number of lanes and capacity will remain unchanged.

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