Fort Bend Residents Say Proposed Toll Road a Bad Idea

A proposed toll road that would extend the Grand Parkway from Highway 59 in Richmond all the way around to Highway 288 south of Pearland will probably happen within the next few years, but not without a big fight from residents in Fort Bend County. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, some are calling the highway "a road to nowhere" that will devastate neighborhoods and businesses.

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Residents who have settled just west of the Brazos River and south of Highway 59, in growing communities like Greatwood and Canyon Gate, say they never had a clue a freeway-style toll road would someday cut through their neighborhoods. The planned roadway would link to a segment of the Grand Parkway just north of 59 and includes entrance and exit ramps and overpasses near homes and businesses. David Cuellar lives in Brazos Lakes and says this isn't what homeowners signed up for.

"We would rather have it ground-level, with minimum overpasses, as it was stated in 2001. There was no opposition in 2001 when this map came out. In our section, it's rural land. They can move these roads another 3-5 miles to completely lessen the impact on our subdivisions." 

At least four businesses would be wiped-out by construction and residents worry overpasses 60 or 70 feet high would ruin their neighborhoods. Matt Kilboy, who has a house in Greatwood, was one of several hundred concerned residents at a meeting in Richmond earlier this week. He says the road basically goes nowhere as curves around into Brazoria County.

"If you get two miles beyond the impacted areas the value portion that they bring farther out is farmland. They're basically connecting out to nowhere. If you go to Brazoria, you have miles and miles of toll road that we're paying for today that are not going to be utilized." 

But supporters of the highway say it's been planned as a toll road for a number of years and is part of a larger regional transportation plan that will serve as a spark for growth. The Grand Parkway Association's Executive Director David Gornet says better now than later, when even more homes and businesses would be affected. 

"If the decision can be made now and the route is nailed down, you stop development from occurring in the corridor. New development that does occur can be complementary to the knowledge of that's where the road is going to go. This is where access may or may not be and if you're looking for something and you want access, you can buy there. If you want to be away from it, you buy away from it."  

TX-DOT, which would build the $582 million roadway, says it doesn't have the money to do it without the toll component. Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert says he's not sure that makes much sense.

"We can't even justify the next section up which is the most heavily trafficked segment of the Grand Parkway in existence as a full toll road, how can we do Segment C out in the undeveloped portion of the county."

Officials say there's still room for modifications, but the road will still likely include on and off ramps, overpasses and eventually toll booths.

 

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Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...