Increased traffic causes the Grand Parkway to widen in the Spring area

After a nearly 50% increase in traffic on the Grand Parkway since the outer loop of the Greater Houston area stretched through North Houston in 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation will begin the expansion process for several segments, including the F-2 segment that runs in the spring and the area. Klein from the highway. 249 to I-45.TxDOT Communications Officer Danny Perez said community effect In an email, the agency will hold a public meeting in April for two projects that will expand the toll range from four to six lanes of Hwy. 249 to Holzwarth Road and a combined cost of $108 million.

TxDOT officials have confirmed that the expansion will take place from Hwy. 249 to Kuykendahl Road, at a cost of $63 million with bidding in August and an estimated construction time of 42 months. The other project will run between Kuykendahl and Holzwarth roads, at a cost of $45 million with an estimated construction time of three years. The Kuykendahl-Holzwarth expansion will be put up for bidding in October 2024.

Perez said the four existing lanes of the road will be kept in operation throughout the project, and the new lanes — one in each direction — will be extended inward, reducing the impact of construction on the surrounding area.

Organizations representing business interests in the area have discussed the need to widen the highway. Marlisa Briggs, president of the North Houston Association and business interests representative on the Houston-Galveston Area Council, said she believes growth in northern Harris County means a greater need for expansion.

“There are a lot of new communities out there,” Briggs said. “There are a lot of new developments and activities.”

Meanwhile, Bobby Leib, president of the Northwest Houston Chamber of Commerce, noted increased residential and commercial development near Tomball and I-45 respectively, which has led to increased use of the freeway.

“This is a relatively new route, and it really needs to be expanded,” said Leib. “We have Tomball Residential District [growth]and some businesses, as well as the growth of City Place and Springwoods Village. [The Grand Parkway] It is a link between commuters who live in the Tomball area and Klein commuting east.”

Expansion timing

According to Perez, the Grand Parkway expansions are controlled by a 2009 market assessment waiver agreement signed by TxDOT and the seven counties — Harris, Montgomery, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Chambers, Liberty and Galveston — that the highway passes through. He said that specific traffic volume thresholds must be met for the highway to provide an adequate level of service.

“The current six-lane widening is expected to be as appropriate to the current planning prospects as they represent [Houston-Galveston Area Council’s] 2045 regional transportation plan, Perez said.

TxDOT data shows that average annual daily traffic increased by more than 50% from the F-2 opening in 2016 to 2019 – rising from 43,358 to 65,779 in that time period. Although 2020 – the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic – saw it drop to 55,912, 2021 saw the numbers rise to 64,299.

Briggs said she thought it was “impossible to predict” that the growth rate would reach an expansion threshold.

“There was clearly a need for expansion and the Grand Parkway was clearly needed in the first place,” she said. But I don’t think anyone predicted how fast the region would grow [since F-2’s opening]. ”

The Houston area in general has grown at a “fairly decent pace” in the past five years, said Adam Beckum, director of transportation and project programming at H-GAC.

“Alongside this growth, regional travel patterns and vehicular traffic have grown at an even higher rate than demographic growth,” he said.

Beckom added that H-GAC staff is unsure how growth will affect the terms laid out in the 2009 waiver, and more time will be needed to determine whether Grand Parkway will reach traffic numbers that require further expansions.

Perez did not rule out the possibility of future expansions of the highway because the waiver agreement requires the state to maintain a certain level of service. TxDOT was able to verify a document community effect It was obtained as an exemption in 2009, but the document did not discuss the specific conditions needed to move the highway expansions.

“The level of service standards applies to the entire Grand Parkway system, and future expansions may be possible, depending on traffic volume, to maintain a certain level of service,” Perez said.

Driving traffic and growth

Leib cited the major employers in the development of City Place as a contributing factor to the increased traffic in the F-2 segment. He specifically highlighted the move of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s global headquarters to campus — announced in 2020 and opening in 2022 — as one of the employment developments on the Grand Parkway.

However, Lieb also cited HNWCC research that showed workers in northwest Houston and unincorporated Harris County often did not move their residences to be closer to their jobs. In 2019, the Chamber’s report showed, 63,581 workers were living and working between the interstate. 249 and I-45, compared to that district’s 189,680 employees who live elsewhere and 219,336 workers who lived in the district but worked elsewhere.

According to five-year estimates from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the total population of the five zip codes surrounding Grand Parkway — 77379, 77388, 77389, 77375, and 77377 — grew by 19.96% from 2015-20, rising from 226,508 to 271,720.

“When you have this kind of residential growth happening on the West Side, you are bound to get high levels of congestion [from workers] to their traditional workplaces,” said Leib.

Briggs cited ExxonMobil’s January move of the company’s headquarters to City Place as a factor focused on hiring. However, it also highlighted residential development closer to the Tomball area which had established a “solid commuter base”.

“With all these big companies comes all the people they do business with; they want to locate close to where their colleagues are,” Briggs said.

Andrew Giammalva, project manager for City Place developer CDC Houston, called the completion of the F-2 segment a “transformational moment” for City Place, but said the developers did not consider the expansion work “urgent.”

“We don’t see any extended work as a concern, nor do we consider it urgent but we certainly hope that any future road works will continue to enhance connections and traffic flow, supporting the measured growth of the area,” Giamalva said in a statement. community effect.

In addition to the corporate headquarters, City Place is also home to one-family and three multi-family residential communities. The Houston Center for Disease Control confirmed community effect In 2021, it was planning 600 new single- and multi-family housing units to build a new 2,000-acre master-planned community by 2023.

Promising future

Part F-2 was last re-evaluated for environmental impact in 2012, well before the highway opened in 2016. Perez said new projects would receive their own environmental impact data due to the age of the previous document, but he was unable to provide a timeline until after the public meeting in April.

Perez added that TxDOT has received concerns from the public about noise from tolls, and the project will provide the agency with an opportunity to investigate noise barriers.

When asked what he was looking forward to hearing from the planning meeting, Leib said he wanted to know about the agency’s plans for surrounding byways during the construction process.

“I think it would be good to know the level of service and when [the expansion] finished,” said Lieb. “How long does TxDOT expect this expansion to deliver good service levels?”

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