by: Laurie Johnson, June 5, 2006 12:06:00 am
Elected officials from Harris, Galveston and Brazoria Counties are discussing ways to improve transportation in the region. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels says the rapid growth in the region means jurisdictions must work together on transportation. He says Harris County is working on using the toll road authority to provide a method of finance for area transportation projects.
"We're going through now a study on the toll road authority on how we pay for things in this community and the value that can come through that. I believe that we should maintain local control, to the extent that we can, on our financing and it's important because we need to look at issues beyond the pure economics of that system. We need to be able to finance projects like the East Belt of the Sam Houston Tollway, which may or may not make economic sense, pure economic sense today, but needs to be built and will in the long term be paid for through the tolls and the system that's there."
South of Houston, Brazoria County is experiencing rapid growth in the Pearland area. Brazoria County Commissioner Dude Payne says the county is seeking funding for nearly $400 million in road projects, including some sort of HOV lanes along Highway 288.
"288 managed lanes, which is something that I know all of y'all know that we need, are being negotiated with TXDOT and Harris County Toll Road Authority. TXDOT has verbally commited to doing a two-lane, north and south, from Highway 6 to 59 in the next three to five years. The Harris County Toll Road Authority is not willing to move forward with this project until they have an agreement from TXDOT to build on the right of way."
And in the City of Houston, there's a new initiative to get commuters off the roads during peak traffic hours. Mayor Bill White says the city will test a program that uses flexible working hours and telecommuting to cut congestion.
"Let's take two weeks and challenge major employers to see what they can do to vary and have more flexible working hours through a compressed workweek or checking emails from home for an hour before you come in. It enhances in productivity, and I'll tell you, it enhances retention. That's one of the greatest motivations for firms that are implementing this."
White says the challenge for employers will be tested for two weeks in September. Companies will measure productivity during that time while, simultaneously, the city will measure the impact on traffic. The elected officials made their remarks at the Bay Area Transportation Partnership's State of the Counties Address. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.