A hearing is still to be held, and vote yet to be taken, but one state senator reports funding for the Grand Parkway, which local leaders argue is vital to this area, will not be removed from a list of state projects.

“I am confident, based on conversations that I have had, that the issue is being taken care of,” state Sen. Larry Taylor said Thursday in a written statement. “They have received an overwhelming amount of support for the project that has been in the planning stages for many years, and now understand that it was not meant to be subject to the recent limitation on future toll roads.”

While Taylor was confident after talks with the Texas Transportation Commission that the project wouldn’t be removed, officials with the Texas Department of Transportation declined to confirm or deny Taylor’s statement.

Transportation officials declined to comment Thursday, beyond confirming the department still was accepting public comment on the plan, would hold a hearing next week as planned and the commission would vote in late August.

Despite the apparent good news, members of several local groups said they still planned to make the trip Tuesday to Austin to keep pressure on state leaders about the project, which would cost more than $1.3 billion.

Local leaders greeted the news that state transportation officials were considering a plan to remove the unfinished parts of the Grand Parkway from the 2020 Unified Transportation Program with unified outcry.

The long-envisioned project would spur development along the northern reaches of Galveston County, especially in the fast-growing western part of League City, enhance the region’s storm evacuation options and provide a much-needed east to west transportation option in an area where most highways run from the north to the south, they argue.

“We felt all along that it was not going to be pulled from the list,” said Bob Mitchell, the executive director of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, a nonprofit organization meant to advocate for business interests in the area. “We were all a little surprised when the commission decided to put it up for consideration to be pulled.”

The Grand Parkway, or state Highway 99, is 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.

State leaders have been mostly evasive about what led them to consider pulling the project, but many have guessed the root of the problem stems from a growing opposition to toll roads. The Grand Parkway would be a toll road.

Texas voters in 2014 and 2015 overwhelmingly agreed to provide the Texas Department of Transportation with billions of dollars in new revenue from various streams. The ballot language, however, said the money could not be used for toll roads or toll lanes.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in November 2017 spoke out against toll roads in a letter to J. Bruce Bugg Jr., the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, a five-member board that governs the Texas Department of Transportation.

But that should have never harmed the Grand Parkway project, because it’s been in the works for many years and resident concern about toll roads is mostly in northern Texas, Mitchell said.

“We were grandfathered, and had been on the list to be funded for many, many years,” he said.

State leaders weren’t expecting such a push and uproar about the possibility of the Grand Parkway’s exclusion, he said.

“It’s full steam ahead,” Mitchell said. “We aren’t backing off now, we want to keep the pressure on them.”

Representatives from League City and other area communities and groups are still planning to make the trip to Austin, said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

Locations

(7) comments

Michelle Aycoth

That’s great but only if no tolls.

Gary Scoggin

Tolls are the fairest way to pay for it. If you don’t want to pay the toll, Loop 610 is always available.

Michelle Aycoth

I don’t believe in double taxation.

Gary Scoggin

It's not double taxation. Toll roads are financed by bonds. The tolls then go to pay off the bonds. They are not constructed with tax money.

Josh Moore

Sounds like a nightmare.

Jose' Boix

Who and what to believe. The column notes: "Texas voters in 2014 and 2015 overwhelmingly agreed to provide the Texas Department of Transportation with billions of dollars in new revenue from various streams. The ballot language, however, said the money could not be used for toll roads or toll lanes."

The column also seem to imply that the project in question was "included then" so it should be "grandfathered." Then the column also implies that a "fine print" seems to limit the funds for "no toll roads." We are now in mid 2019. Can someone state the real facts of what we seemingly" overwhelmingly agreed' 4-5 years ago? I have the same issues with all the Galveston County Bonds we "overwhelmingly approved" a number of years ago - was it spent, did the projects do what designed for? Just my thoughts!

James Lippert

If you want to ensure the Grand Parkway IS built and you cannot attend tomorrow's public meeting in Austin, you are urged to submit your comments to TxDOT by calling 800-687-8108, emailing TPP_UTP@txdot.gov, or mailing them to Texas Department of Transportation, Attn: Peter Smith, PO Box 149217, Austin, Texas 78714. This matter is VERY important to the success of Galveston County. Failure to complete the Grand Parkway is not an option.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.