Grand Parkway Segment E: Mall Shopper Express Lanes

GRAND PARKWAY SEGMENT E: MALL SHOPPER EXPRESS LANES Approvals by the Harris County Commissioners Court this week — along with the timely arrival of $181 million of the state’s stimulus money — means nothing but a new Sierra Club lawsuit now stands in the way of building Segment E of the Grand Parkway toll road. The segment, which will cut through the Katy Prairie between I-10 and 290, will allow shoppers a convenient and direct link from the Katy Mills Mall to the new Houston Premium Outlets mall in Cypress, just west of Fairfield. Peter Haughton with General Growth Properties said, ‘We need this road to continue the build out of Bridgeland, which we hope will be one of America’s best master planned communities.’” [abc13]

15 Comment

  • The greed of developers is amazing. But, the crash is taking care of them.

  • So… why exactly should taxpayers finance opening up unused land for private developers to make a profit? Is there a shortage of housing in the Houston area? You wouldn’t know it from the real estate listings.

  • Gosh, I sure feel sad for everyone out in the burbs that have to contend with traffic. Let’s plow over an ecosystem, spend a ton more money to help developers, and build another “master planned” piece of crap. I had no idea this thing was so far out! Pretty soon we’ll be connecting Rosenberg and Rosharon… and in the process we’ll pour concrete over Brazos Bend State Park for another road. Then, the developers will create a new “master planned” community called something like “The Estates at Brazos Bend” with a bunch of man-made lakes, a park with fake alligators for kids to climb on, and a big Walmart right in the middle.

  • John,

    I can make the argument the other way. Why should taxpayers finance light rail on at grade streets solely for the purpose of encouraging developers to build along the lines?

    Since METRO started construction of the first light rail line, they have changed their focus from providing quality transit to encouraging development. Light rail (and commuter rail for that matter) do not reduce traffic congestion. If someone uses that argument, they are lying. No study exists even to support showing that traffic could be reduced. Metro also continually cut bus service when they promised a 50% increase in the last referendum. They have purchased land along the Red Line not just for station construction, but to be sold to a developer. Everybody praises METRO for promoting and spending on land for future development, but they attack TxDOT and Harris County for doing the same?

    The reality is that all road construction is meant for ECONOMIC development whether it’s expansion of an existing road to be wider or in construction a brand new road. The reduction of traffic congestion allows commerce to continue to thrive. The creation of new routes to open up new land creates the potential for more tax base (in this case for the County and for METRO). The more suburbs in METRO’s tax area (such as along this segment of the Grand Parkway) will actually give more money to METRO to build more rail.

    At least our neighboring state admits this in their transportation department’s title. They call themselves LaDOTD. The second “D” is for Development. All other states operate on the same premise, but they don’t put the extra “D” at the end. If you don’t like this, you need to change the premise for which the department of transportation operates. It just easier to blame developers and whine about losing a prairie.

  • kjb434…amen brother!

  • Thank your for admitting this kjb434. Of course government capital spending is in service of economic growth–typically private economic growth. (Obviously not exclusively so–roads and schools and sewers and rail lines and levees have other benefits above and beyond aiding private economic interests.)

    Given this, it just comes down to what economic growth we want to subsidize with our government spending. I’m not a hard-core light rail fan (I would rather see more bus routes and dedicated BRT routes), but I think better transit in places where people already live would help promote economic growth more than a new section of the Grand Parkway in the middle of nowhere. And the economic growth would be more diffuse and not aimed at a small number of politically-connected developers.
    I mean, as long as we’re all admitting that government entities use socialistic projects to promote public/private economic development, we can have a reasonable argument over which development we would prefer. I think TxDOT has proven themselves to be pretty poor commissars in recent years, and I would rather that $181 million be spent inside the metro area–not on an uninhabited prairie. But that’s just my opinion, comrade.

  • I agree that in terms of priority, there are better places for the $$ to be spent.

    I disagree with the sentiment that developers are the “bad guys”. Development is generally good for the City/County.

    New houses, retail centers, industrial complexes etc. generate new property taxes. Lots of new property taxes. It is in the City/Counties best interest to encourage development.

    Yes, it’s not always pretty. Certainly they could do a better job of choosing what developments to support. We could argue over what the additional tax money should go to. But let us also acknowledge that new development is profitable for the City/County and therefore (theoretically) for the citizens of Houston.

  • The fact the tax money is used to create infrastructure that will boost economic activity is not at all socialist in concept.

    The government is providing a basic service in the form of infrastructure investment which makes region attractive for development. The money isn’t given to the developer. TxDOT and HCTRA are mostly just making the land more valuable. METRO on the other hand has condemnation power (not the more common eminent domain). Which means they can deem a property near a rail stop to be condemned and then sell it off to a developer. The original landowner gets a market price and little recourse to argue the price. Eminent domain gives landowners some options.

    Also, the developer connection for the Grand Parkway goes both ways. The land the parkway is purchased at a price usually lower than market because the developer wants it to pass by them. This particular alignment is pretty straight forward, but the alignment from US 59 in Fort Bend County to SH 146 in Galveston County has had dramatic shifts. Brokers are amassing smaller tracks into larger ones to be attractive to developers and also are talking to TxDOT, Grand Parkway Association, and H-GAC about alignments. This gets a road build with little eminent domain fights and lower costs for right of way acquisition.

    Also, I’m not against rail and mass transit. There are some benefits and to me it does go a longer way assisting in creating dense urban core some people want. It also does it without a heavy hand of zoning or a city planner. Richmond is a good example. From Midtown to Wesleyan the development of denser properties has had a big uptick.

  • Putting in highways and light rail lines is planning. When you build a freeway out beyond the inhabited part of the metro, you do so with the intent of encouraging suburban development there. When you build a rail line, you do so assuming the stops will draw development and economic activity. This is Say’s Law in action–production (in this case, production of transportation options) creates consumption (in this case development). In other words, “if you build it they will come.” It’s different from more extreme planning (like designing Brasilia or Canberra), but it is planning.
    My point is that local and state government bodies make these decisions under constraint (because no one has a bottomless well of cash) all the time. They decide to build this road and not that one. They decide to put storm sewers in this neighborhood and not that one. Etc. If we build Road A and not Road B, it’s because we want development on Road A more than we want it on Road B (for whatever reason). We have made a planning decision. I don’t care if you call that socialistic or not, but what it most definitely is not is laissez faire because the government made the choice.
    Since these decisions are made by government agencies like TXDot or Metro or Harris County or Houston, we citizens have right (and a responsibility) to make our opinions heard. So for what it’s worth (which is admittedly not too much!), I will continue to “whine” about what I consider to be a bad planning choice–the construction of the Grand Parkway.

  • Ugh–sorry about that block of uninterrupted text. How do you put spaces between paragraphs?

  • @RWB: You can create properly-spaced paragraphs by putting HTML paragraph codes before and after each one. For example:

    <p>Here you go.</p>

    It may not always work properly in the preview, but if you get the codes right, it should work when you post.

  • I haven’t figured out the space thing either RWB. It’s probably the comment system itself.

    And to your point:

    The public does have input in the planned of these roads and facilities. The University Line for METRO has had it’s original alignment altered in all kinds of ways because of public input. While the Grand Parkway has a vocal opposition, there are plenty of people in support of it also. The County has completed Fry road from FM 529 to US 290 making it ultimately connect US 290 and I-10. The traffic on this road is building. A long stretch of Fry runs through un-developed prairie. Fry was used as a relief for Eldridge and SH 6’s north-south corridor.

    The Grand Parkway goal from the planning perspective is to pull traffic off of SH 6, Eldridge, and the West Belt wich will also pull traffic off of US 290. Employees of the Engergy Corridor or in Sugarland the live in the Katy and Cypress area (and there are a lot) will now have another option.

    If this road wasn’t tolled, I would have more misgivings about it.

  • RWB, you are right that light rail is planning. It takes time to create the community around public transportation. You can’t force as we would like to around here. Take Arlington, VA as an example. When the DC Metro was being built 25+ years ago, the county chose to run the lines underground rather than in the middle of a freeway as neighboring Fairfax County did. As a result, the areas around those Metro stops are vibrant places where people live, play, shop, and work. The street one of the lines runs down used to resemble N Shepherd with car dealerships and autoshops 10-20 yrs ago. Fairfax county, on the other hand, has giant parking lots for commuters next to their Metro stops and a cost of commuting (fare+parking) that rivals the cost of a downtown parking spot. I would much rather see money spent taking cars off the road inside the city (reducing traffic for all) rather than building more roads to help developers.

    Houston needs to take a better planning look at its public transportation. There should be more options to get around town than having to be always routed through downtown. Why is there no hub in the Galleria?

  • Lots of good arguments on this topic. Thanks to all. I have lived here my entire life except for a year in France, and my job takes me to cities all over the country and I have traveled all over the world, so I make my comments based on those experiences. Having watched TxDot and Harris County’s “planning” efforts and the results for nearly 40 years, I have to give them a thumbs down. I used to think it was mostly TxDot that was clueless and corrupt, but I now am convinced that it is Harris County and its inbred cronyism, developer backroom dealing, and allegiance to the road-building industry that has saddled our region with such poor projects. One only has to visit Dallas to see what is possible in terms of mass transit and highway traffic integration, rail development, and design aesthetics. The team of TxDot and Harris County is even worse than the sum of its players and I propose the Katy Freeway project has example #1. The elimination of the existing rail line and purposeful elimination of a rail component in a project that lays 28 lanes of concrete for nearly 20 miles is beyond irresponsible. It’s ludicrous. What little respect in these two that I once had is completely gone. They have done more damage to Houston than good. Taking a look at their plans for I-45, especially inside the loop, shows more monumental damage to the quality of life in this part of town. The two know of no solutions that do not begin and end with simply laying more square miles of concrete. Truly, the outside the loopers and suburbanites don’t give a squat because their only concern is shaving 5 minutes off the commutes they decided to embrace when they chose to live an hour away from their jobs. I, for one am tired of sacrificing the quality of life in the “city” for this primary purpose, and tired of tax dollars subsidizing those choices.

  • Do they have money in that budget to repaint lane lines and repave portions of Washington Ave and the streets around the Galleria (streets I use regularly and know are in need of a little work)? If not, there is no way in hell I want them spending money on a new road when they can’t take care of the roads they already have. You may now return to your way-over-my-head political debate.