Filling Out the Grand Parkway from 9 to 12 O’Clock

FILLING OUT THE GRAND PARKWAY FROM 9 TO 12 O’CLOCK A vote in Commissioners Court yesterday authorized the Harris County Toll Road Association to start looking for consulting firms to coordinate the design of a wide northwest swath of the Grand Parkway, extending from I-10 West just east of Katy to a little past I-45 North. That’s a 39-mile stretch. The toll road, 180 miles in all, would help fill out Houston’s target map — by adding another ring. [Houston Chronicle]

27 Comment

  • I’m not sure this is a surprise but it sure is welcomed new to my ears! I’m excited about this.

    I think Exxon’s move to Spring was also a forshadowing of this. They will be just north of the I-45/Grand Parkway intersection, a perfect location; not to mention a Hardy entrance is less than a mile away as well.

  • The section from I-10 to US 290 is already designed. I worked on a section of it and the group of firms working on it wrapped up the project not long ago.

  • kjb, you’re my hero. I have been to their website, but they’re not very specific to the timeline of constrction beginning. Do you know anything about that?

  • I haven’t the foggiest clue. The design can sit on the self for a couple of years if it had too.

    Right now, the segment from I-10 to 290 is working its way through the US Army Corps of Engineers environmental review process for where the project crosses jurisdictional wetlands.

  • “…jurisdictional wetlands”.

    Kjb, are these ‘navigable waters’ or do they have jurisdiction over them by some other way?

  • eiioi,

    Jurisdictional Wetlands: those that are regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under Section 404 — must exhibit all three characteristics: hydrology, hydrophytes, and hydric soils (US ACOE 1987). It is important to understand that some areas that function as wetlands ecologically, but exhibit only one or two of the three characteristics, do not currently qualify as Corps jurisdictional wetlands and thus activities in these wetlands are not regulated under the Section 404 program. Such wetlands, however, may perform valuable functions.

    Whether something is navigable or not has nothing to do with whether it is classified as jurisdictional wetlands.

    Loose interpretations can extend jurisdictional wetlands to include thing like roadside ditches.

  • It won’t really be a target unless they build some section of the Grand Parkway out over the Gulf of Mexico…

  • RWB,

    If you build a brand new road over a drainage ditch out in some prairie in west Harris County, you’ll need a wetlands permit.

    The USACE has much more power and reach than many people realize.

    If you violate jurisdictional wetlands without acquiring the proper permits, an entire project can be killed and taken over by the corp (you lose the project). A subdivision in southeast Montgomery County found this out the hard way. The county engineers approved everything thing but warned the developer that they may need USACE approval. The developer didn’t get the approval and about $1 million into the project it was shut down. Some roadside ditches dug, pavement was place, along with some excavation for detention was stopped. The developer has not access to the sight anymore and the land is now property of the Federal Government.

  • I really hope that this segment of the GP does NOT get built. It’s senseless for the Houston metro to keep sprawling out to nowhere. The Katy Prairie is a precious natural resource. Haven’t we wrecked enough of those already around here???

  • What if Houston wasn’t sprawling out there but instead Katy and Cypress (if it was a real town) were growing? Would if this road were to built without Houston’s existence? Would the opposition be same?

  • We kill animal habitats every day when there is development. Just because these animals are not squirrels, what makes them more special?

    Why don’t we fight for cricket, ant and possum rights in the northern woodlands? Are they not as special?

    Let’s just kill off the human race and let the animals live. We are invading their territory.

  • That’s what I get for trying (and failing) to make a joke…

  • But this is far more than just one more freeway… it’s going to spur “development” the whole way through, and eventually, this segment of the GP will be just as clogged as the other freeways. Building cheap housing and freeways is not the answer… changing our traffic and land use behaviors is the only way to relieve the congestion prolem.

  • What’s wrong with spurring development?

    People act like it’s some kind of evil.

    “changing our traffic and land use behaviors is the only way to relieve the congestion problem”

    Throughout the US and many parts of the world, legislative measures were taken to do what you wish. The problem is that they don’t work. Having the freedom to choose where you live does. If you choose to live in a location where traffic is bad or is likely to get worse due to growth, that is your choice.

  • look at the upside, houston sprawl keeps young folks from moving here which keeps the demand down for oil and gas jobs.

    i guarantee you not many kids thinking about moving here will enjoy the thought of having to drive from central houston all the way out to grand parkway just so they can have some semblance of a lifestyle that younger folks get in better known cities.

  • Of course the fact that the designed section does cross the wetlands may still end up killing the current design. If it was as much of a done deal as it sounds here then it would have qualified for stimulus money. As it is that got diverted to another project that we don’t need.

  • Jimbo,

    The project would have met the qualifications for the stimulus money if additional comments by USACE did not need to be addressed. I’m not in the business of performing or filling out environmental permits. Environmental engineers handle that task. This project can easily be built without any stimulus or state funds (which it is on tract to do) by being backed by HCTRA.

    TxDOT wanted to control the toll road which means it would have had to built it. Since TxDOT can’t afford to build it now, HCTRA is taking over.

  • Joel,

    what are you talking about? Are you saying young people want grand parkway style development? Houston is the king of grand parkway style development.

  • no, no. i meant to say keeps the “supply down” for filling these jobs which keeps the wages up.

  • Harris County Commissioners have a symbiotic relationship with the local Civil Engineering community (actually, the consulting community as a whole), which depends upon a never-ending stream of public works projects. New projects generate new engineering fees, a portion of which are kicked back, er, contributed to the County Commissioners massive campaign war chests. Firms that want work need to prove it through their largess. Thus, the commissioners have a greater vested interest in seeing roads built than they do in preserving the Katy Prairie.

    And seeing that KJB works for an Engineering firm, would it be fair to ask whether he/she is billing the time spent posting here during business hours to a county project or a TXDOT project? Just pulling your leg there, KJB….

  • joel: Are young people fleeing Austin because their toll road authority has recently completed a large section of SH 130? No. It’ll generate development that appeals to squares who might’ve otherwise lived in south Austin, freeing up more housing for the cool kids where the cool kids want to be.

  • I’d also like to add that growth anywhere in the Houston region is good for central Houston. It’s way easier to accommodate people’s boring tastes with externally-financed toll roads and reap the benefits of growth than it is to try to force a square peg into a round hole.

  • Presumably it still has to actually pass the environmental audits before it can be built or are they pretty much a rubber stamp process? I don’t really have a horse in the Grand Parkway discussion, mostly I’m still just being pissy about the I-10 feeders. Every day I drive past in both directions and try and figure out who decided that that was the most sensible use for $90M of our money.

  • If HCTRA builds this and doesn’t use any federal money, they can skip the typical environmental impact statements that take months to years to complete.

    It doesn’t mean that they just build whatever they want. Things like sound walls and other mitigation measures still have to be implemented where required. It just doesn’t have to wade through the federal bureaucracy.

    The USACE permits are required regardless though. Luckily they are reviewed locally (Galveston Office). And all you bleeding heart prairie lovers, the USACE keeps in contact with all the state and local agencies to keep them informed of what is going on (especially in larger projects like this). Their input is quite valuable to the review specifically in concerning wildlife and wildlife habitat.

  • Speaking as someone who tends to be a little obsessive compulsive with these things I can see a trend emerging. Someone somewhere is very focused on completeing the patterns. Ring roads must circle the full ring and feeders must continue through the full extent on the freeway right of way. Its like completing the full matrix of FE models even when you know you have already found the important result.

  • To make you feel better Jimbo, the GP will not have feeders and will not be laid out to accommodate future feeders. Were the feeders typically would go will be detention basins (and they will be planted and landscaped).

  • RWB – I got the joke. I don’t think kjb understood your “wont really be a target” comment was referring to the rings around Houston, rather than the wetland building over being a target of issue.