This Week, Houston Begins Slicing What’s Left of the Katy Prairie in Two

Tuesday morning, not far from the former grounds of Forbidden Gardens, its now-ransacked replica gravesite of Emperor Qin, and his army of one-third-scale terracotta soldiers at the stub-end of Hwy. 99 and Franz Rd., TxDOT and a contingent of public officials will gather to celebrate the groundbreaking of a notable project for Houston: the paving of a $350 million four-lane toll highway with “intermittent” development-ready access roads across an expanse of largely uninhabited prairie land that stretches between Katy and Cypress. When it’s complete, the 180-mile-long Grand Parkway will be Houston’s fourth ring road, cutting through 7 different counties. But none of the planned segments will forge so dramatic a path through undeveloped land as this particular north-south stretch, called Segment E.


A little too late for a possible rebirth of interest in the ancient Chinese monarchy at the defunct Forbidden Gardens attraction, the state highway will allow a much easier path for travelers moving from the Houston Premium Outlet mall in Cypress to the Katy Mills Mall. Three of four contracts with separate construction firms working on various portions of the 15.2-mile segment were awarded over the summer. In late August, the Sierra Club filed its latest lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several other agencies who have given approvals to the state-funded toll-road project, claiming that runoff likely to result from it was not accounted for properly in environmental studies, and may cause flooding problems in Memorial-area neighborhoods downstream from Addicks and Barker dams.

Photo: KUHF News

19 Comment

  • Bring on the nail salons and Subways.

  • Let’s just pave everything. Strip malls as far as they eye can see. Wonderful.

  • unrelated, but which project exactly was Obama referring to when he mentioned Houston in his jobs speech last week: was he talking about the I45 widening project or the BW8 westside widening?

  • I think it’s great, it brings road construction jobs, future commercial and residential construction jobs and provides lower cost suburban living for those who do want to commute. But most importantly it’s the biggest middle finger to the FauxArchitects/FauxUrbanPlanners who live inside the loop and demand an 18th century mode of transportation (rail) to slowly go between sweaty coffee shop to a sweaty organic food store.

  • It will best serve the Aggies in Katy with a faster route to College Station.

  • Sweet! Jobs for people who would otherwise be completely helpless without large-scale government intervention. I say swarm away.

  • Joel,

    I think Obama was talking about kicking lose FTA funds for light rail.

  • I’m not some superior environmentalist, some save the endangered bug over developing some MPC’s, some progressive yuppy, and I certainly recognize the value of jobs and money being pumped into our economy, especially in this era, but I am someone who can sense when some thing is unequivocally wrong, when something is detrimental to the future of the city and the region, and society, in this case. How can we build something like this when there are still parts of our 2nd beltway that are vastly undeveloped, when there are parts of central Houston with densities similar to the outer skirs of the city limits. This is disgustin to the very core of the issue. There has to be an end to sprawl, and I think 90% of the 6 million people residing here can attest that the current sprawl is far more than satisfactory, that the the demise of our natural environment is enough, and that the eyesores that are our plentiful strip malls are exponentially worse than ANY other major city in the nation, so I am with the upmost contempt, against this project and the outcomes that will result. There goes all the hope Houston had for the progression of its urbanity in the future. Now, the continued growth of inner Houston will be even more canceled out by the larger atrocious growth that marrs the rest of the metropolitan area. Just despicable.

  • thanks Drew, the way he said it made it sound like it was one of the larger widening projects that could help deal with congestion, dissapointing to hear it was only rail.

    also, regarding the splitting of houston into east/west, is there any city in the US where the east side has higher average incomes and more infrastructure spending? seems that with most every city i can think of the east side is generally much more destitute than the west.

  • Good grief, when was this photo taken? Are those clouds?

  • @Carlos: Yea!
    This newest ring-road is unnecessary and premature. The City should secure the right-of-way but resist pressure from businesses and not build a thing.
    In future, when SE Texas has the population of Beijing, high-speed rail, etc will be built.
    @joel: Why IS that?! It does seem to be a national reality that WEST is more affluent than EAST…
    Here in TX, Northward- and Westward-expansion generally brings development into both virgin land (historically less civilized and safe) and less-likely-flooded land (because the state tilts toward the Gulf of Mexico.)

  • Didn’t the Jeffersons move on up to the EAST side? To a deluxe apartment no less.

    Who says the west side is better…..not me. I love Houston’s east end.

  • The grand parkway is being built because of 1 thing EXXON. Thats it, nothing else. For those so opposed to it, move to west Texas buy 3 or 4 thousand acres and you will never have to worry about it again. Houston and the surrounding areas will continue to grow , like it or not.

  • The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function:

  • Regarding the east-west divide, I have heard an explanation which may not be true but certainly seems plausible. I have also puzzled as to why the west side of US cities tends to be the most affluent and have the best housing stock.

    An urban planner friend of mine shared that since the prevailing winds are from west to east and industry historically was located near the urban core, then those that could afford to built their homes to the west of the industrial areas so that they were not impacted by the resulting pollution. Airborne pollution and smoke typically was blown away to the east of the city.

  • @ Joel: I noticed the east/west phenomenon too. It makes sense for Houston..the closer east you go, the closer you get to the refineries. As for other cities, not sure. Could it be industry started at point A (Eastside). So, people wanted to live across town (Westside), away from industry?

  • @Chad

    I think a more accurate statement is that all recent freeways, particularly the federally funded ones, are because of EXXON.

    And if everyone took your advice, EXXON’s preferred self-serving city-building paradigm would surely arrive right on their heels (no matter what anyone really wanted).

  • The land for the Grand Parkway was given to the State by a group of investors. Naturally, they own most of the flanking land. When we, the taxpayers, build the road they will be able to sell their properties for commercial development hence raking in the big bucks. In the meantime the rest of us will subsidize this remote low cost housing with additional funding for more roads and services.
    A bigger question will come when the roadway flanks Brazos Bend Park and development encroaches there – only because it’s cheaper.

  • Gators will want to sun on the concrete. DOT will have to install elaborate fencing as done in FL, etc.