First, it was on. Then it was off. Now, the Grand Parkway project might be on again.
During a February council meeting, League City Mayor Pat Hallisey said he heard local work on the segment of the highway in Galveston County could soon begin.
“The Grand Parkway will be coming,” he said.
Hallisey’s comments were the most recent public remarks about the new segment of the Grand Parkway, or state Highway 99, an unfinished loop around the greater Houston area under construction since 1994.
Segment B of the project calls for a highway stretching from Interstate 45 at state Highway 646 to state Highway 35 in Alvin, officials said.
Just months earlier, Hallisey told The Daily News the project might have hit a snag because of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s opposition to toll roads, an opinion at least several area officials shared.
“At the time, the Texas Department of Transportation was moving forward with a revenue study,” said Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark, who represents the northern communities. “Then, in November 2017, the Lt. Gov. sent a letter saying he had concern about toll roads in Texas.
“When you get a letter like that, you kind of take a pause,” Clark said. “That’s what happened — TXDOT paused the revenue study.”
Officials with Patrick’s office referred all questions about the Grand Parkway to his press secretary’s email address. The Daily News sent three requests for comment to that email address, none of which were returned by deadline Friday.
But Patrick in November 2017 spoke out against toll roads in a letter to J. Bruce Bugg Jr., the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.
“Since I became Lt. Governor and before, as a state senator, I have strongly supported efforts to reduce the state’s reliance on toll roads by making transportation funding a priority,” Patrick said.
The proposed segment of the Grand Parkway would have been a tollway, officials have said.
The crackdown on tollways has stalled some other projects around the region, such as the southern half of state Highway 249 near the Grand Parkway in northwest Houston.
Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation last week were reticent to comment about Hallisey’s claims the project was again moving forward.
“There may have been some recent developments, but nothing solidified,” said Danny Perez, spokesman for the department.
The department might have some new information this week, Perez said.
But Clark on Thursday confirmed the revenue study was moving ahead.
“They’ve got to complete that study to see if it’s a viable project,” Clark said.
Even once the revenue study is complete, county officials still have lots to negotiate with state representatives before construction can actually begin, but any progress is good, Clark said.
League City officials, however, are in a hurry for the project to begin.
Much of the planned pathway goes through mostly undeveloped southwestern League City in a 10-mile stretch of new highway. The city’s population in January was 106,803, up from about 102,634 at the same time in 2017, officials said. But only about 52 percent of League City is developed and projections show that, once fully developed, the population could rise to more than 200,000, officials said.
Developments are already planned for much of the area along the proposed Grand Parkway path. But housing isn’t the only benefit of the project, officials said.
A large percentage of people commute as far as the northwest side of Houston and completing the loop would provide an additional option for a shorter commute, Councilman Chad Tressler said.
The loop also would give residents in the area another evacuation route during hurricane season, Tressler said.
It could also be an economic boon to area businesses, Tressler said.
One such business, the Beef Jerky Outlet near FM 646 and Interstate 45, would benefit from the increased travel through the area, said Amy Gonzalez, a manager at the store.
“Overall, I think it would be very good,” Gonzalez said.