The organization in charge of planning regional transportation projects in Houston and surrounding areas, including Galveston County, is asking for the public’s help in developing a 20-year plan on how it will help people move around.
Starting this week, the Houston-Galveston Area Council will begin holding meetings about its 2045 Regional Transportation Plan, a long-range plan focusing on transportation projects that will recognize traffic needs, goals and strategies over the next 20 years.
A 20-year plan for transportation is needed because of the expected continued growth in and around Houston, officials said.
That’s because, by 2045, the Houston-Galveston region will be home to nearly 11 million people, the council estimates.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council coordinates transportation planning for the eight-county region that includes Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties.
The plan will encompass projected population and employment growth so traffic options for residents can improve, said Patrick Mandapaka, Houston-Galveston Area Council assistant director. The council directs millions of dollars in grants to transportation projects and initiatives annually. Among other things, the council helps fund road paving and widening projects, subsidizes public transportation and grants money to bicycle transportation initiatives.
“The long-range plan will assess demographic trends and transportation demand, forecast future demand for regional mobility, estimate available funding and track progress toward system performance targets,” he said.
There will be an official analysis conducted to determine the cost of the long-range plan, Mandapaka said. This estimate will be included in the final draft of the plan in the fourth quarter of 2019.
There also is an emphasis on protecting the environment and focusing on air quality in the plan, Mandapaka said.
A vital part of this development process will be hearing feedback from residents and acquiring knowledge on ways the plan can strengthen, Mandapaka said.
“We want to engage in a two-way conversation with our residents, our businesses, elected officials and all stakeholders at public meetings,” he said. “The meetings will be organized as an open-house style meeting where attendees can talk with us and learn about how the plan process works and then provide feedback.”
The council has 12 meetings planned over the next two months to gather public input on the plan. Five of the 12 meetings are advertised to gather input from Harris County residents.
There was a specific reasoning for placing meetings in Harris County, said Meagan Coughlin, public outreach director.
“We want to do the best that we can and we cover eight counties,” she said. “We wanted to ensure we had a public meeting at every county. We do have a couple more in Harris County just because it’s our largest area.”
The only Galveston County-specific meeting is scheduled to be held at the Helen Hall Library in League City on April 24, according to the council’s website.
Galveston County is a focus in the transportation plan as the county continues to acquire residents each year.
Since 2010, more than 18,000 residents have moved to League City, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.
The proposed plan will need residential opinions so that it can be upgraded and enhanced, Coughlin said.
“We want everyone to attend the meetings,” she said. “There’s no waiting list and people will come in and will be able to have a two-way dialogue. Just to be able to receive feedback on people’s concerns is the best part when we are able to get solutions from our stakeholders.”
The feedback collected at these series of meetings will be used in the development of the proposed plan, Mandapaka said.
“The next phase will include identifying transportation priorities and needs, developing performance measures for the plan and identifying the investment priorities,” he said. “This process will take about a year to develop the draft plan.”