Commissioners Court wants TxDOT to take over construction of the Grand Parkway.
Harris County took control of the project about 15 months ago in the belief that the Texas Department of Transportation did not have the money to build it, and that the county could come to an agreement with the state over how toll collections would be used.
Things have changed since then. First, County Judge Ed Emmett said, the Texas Transportation Commission has notified him informally that it expects to have $425 million available for the project this year.
Second, the county has not come to an agreement with the state on the use of toll revenues. The state has insisted that all toll revenue collected on the Parkway (also known as State Highway 99) needs to be spent on the Parkway itself.
The county wants to keep all the money collected on Harris County segments of the road in the county to pay for drainage projects, connector roads and other necessities the Parkway creates.
At a Transportation Commission meeting last week, Commissioner Ned Holmes said, “I think one of the challenges that Harris County faces is expending funds in counties that are not Harris County.”
“It is possible that the commission could commit some funding for Segment E in 2011,” said TxDOT spokeswoman Karen Amacker, if the county decides to give the Parkway project back to the state.
“We do believe that it is an important high-priority project, not just for the Houston area but for the entire state,” she said.
And I think it’s a terrible boondoggle that’s primarily going to hugely subsidize development in currently unpopulated areas. Why that’s a better idea than working to improve the parts of town where the people actually live remains a mystery to me. This story was written before the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, at which they officially approved the plan. Let’s just say I’ll be hoping that there’s enough chaos in the Lege to make TxDOT lower the priority on this. Houston Tomorrow and KUHF have more.