The prep work for the expansion/overhaul of US290 is entering its final stages.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed transportation improvements on the US 290/Hempstead Corridor is now available for review. The proposed US 290 Program Corridor begins at the IH 610/US 290/IH 10 Interchange in Houston, TX and extends northwestward to Farm-to-Market (FM) 2920 near Waller, TX for a distance of approximately 38 miles. The proposed enhancements include roadway improvements along a portion of US 290, construction of the new Hempstead Tollway and associated connections to IH 610 and IH 10 in Harris County.
All relevant documents are at that link. One reason why these things are made publicly available is so that all stakeholders can review them and offer feedback. The CTC has given the environmental impact statement a thorough going-over, and you can read their feedback here (large PDF). They pointed out a number of issues, not the least of which has to do with the proposed Hempstead Managed Lanes.
At face value, this project includes both expansion of the US-290 main lanes and also construction of new managed lanes along Hempstead Highway. Any reader of this FEIS is likely to assume that both 290 and Hempstead project elements will move forward in a coordinated fashion. In fact, TxDOT has repeatedly told the public that the Hempstead Managed Lanes will be constructed before US-290 construction begins, to give people travel options and minimize disruption during construction.
However, TxDOT only controls the US-290 portion of the project. In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed SB 792, which specifically grants development rights for the Hempstead Managed Lanes to the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). TxDOT has neither the authority nor the funding to develop this project.
This FEIS does not adequately reflect the separation of these two projects, nor does it address what happens if the County elects not to construct the Hempstead Managed Lanes. We urge FHWA to require TxDOT to prepare a supplemental FEIS which fully considers these impacts.
That’s quite a large assumption for this $4.6 billion project that involves taking a lot of property that hasn’t been addressed. One wonders where all those self-appointed Metro watchdogs are and why they’re not raising more of a fuss about that. Anyway, see what the CTC has to say, and we’ll see what if any response there is from the FHWA, which as we know is a lot easier to get money out of than the FTA.