Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mobility Expansion Plans for South Montgomery County

This is the third in a series of articles on mobility in The Woodlands. Updated 03/30 and 04/01 with new information

The regional mobility plan currently has solutions to ease east and west congestion in The Woodlands and to provide traffic relief and mobility options in south county as documented in the 2035 TxDot Regional Transportation Plan1. It gives us an idea of how much growth and at what development speed the county planners think will drive additional capacity and the coverage required for county transportation in the next 14 years. Currently there are two local projects being funded by the Stimulus bill of the Federal government. Neither is in our area. There is a Harris county project for Gosling that will have potential effect on our traffic. Apparently, there is a farm in that area now that will be developed in the future4. In the same plan, there is federal money going to Town Center for regional and local mass transportation3.

The projects on the books affecting our immediate area include:

  • Widen Research Forest to six lanes from the lake bridge to Shadowbend as soon as mony can be acquired to fund it. The expansion plan from Gosling to Kuykendahl has been canceled. The small segment to SH 2978 is not planned but don't be surprised if it suddenly appears in a plan; the development company controls the funding and trigger on this project.
  • Widen FM-1488 – this project is in progress. FM-1488 is to be a four-lane highway from FM-149 to I-45. It might be part of the solution to our problem, but perhaps it should be six lanes from I-45 to FM-2978.
  • Construct fly-over for SH-242 at I-45. This will be an electronic toll way and should help exchange traffic with I-45. In 2012, SH-242 is to be widened to 6 lanes from Green Bridge to I-45. Smart street technology is not to be added until 2023.
  • Widen FM-2978 from Harris County line to FM-1488 in 2013. Smart street technology in 2023.
  • FM-149: widen to 6 lanes starting in 2018.
  • Widen Glenloch to Sawdust Rd by adding 2 lanes in 2023. The speed limit on Glenloch is currently 25MPH.
  • Extend Gosling south as a 2-lane road to Kuykendahl starting in June 2009. This Harris county planned project is shovel-ready, proposed in the 150 million dollar economic recovery program4. Extend as 4-lane road from SH-242 to FM-1488 in 2033. Construct new section of Gosling from Loop 336 in Conroe to FM-1488 in 2018. Add bridge over Spring Creek and widen Gosling to Panther Creek Pines. Widen Gosling to 4 lanes from SH-242 to Research Forest in 2023.
  • Widen Grogans Mill to 6 lanes from Research Forest to Woodlands Parkway in 2023. Add Smart Street technology in 2023.
  • Extend I-45 HOV lane out to FM-1488 in 2010. Reconstruct 2 managed HOV lanes and bridges to SH-242 in 2023
  • Widen Kuykendahl to 4 lanes from Flintridge to Harris County line in 2023. Construct 2-lane roadway from FM-1488 to N Villa Oaks (missing segments) to make continuous road in 2009. Widen to 4 divided lanes by sections in 2011. Smart street technology in 2023.
  • Construct grade separation on Lake Woodlands at Grogan’s Mill in 2023. Widen to 6 lanes from I-45 to Gosling in 2023.
  • Construct 4-lane divided bridge over Spring Creek for Sawmill to High Oaks in 2023. This will provide another means to access I-45 from the Village of Creekside Park. Don't we already need this?
  • Widen Woodlands Parkway to 6 lanes from I-45 to Gosling in 2008. Use existing bridge. Unable to get full financing in 2008; financing preempted by Hurricane Ike. Now scheduled for completion in August 2009. Smart street improvements in 2023. Widen to 6 lanes from Gosling to Kuykendahl in 2013.
  • Construct Town Center transit terminal in 2011 to interface future light rail and other future transit modes, as well as at Six Pines and Lake Robbins to serve The Woodlands Town Center Transit Corridor. Efforts to add to this have already begun. A Park and Ride has been proposed for Town Center, and government grant money has been requested to fund it3. This will of course attract potential shoppers to Town Center. Although I have not heard of any plans to put an additional Park and Ride in the back of The Woodlands, an expansion of the Sterling Ridge Park and Ride this year (2009) will provide an additional 1000 parking spaces and a passenger facility. This will provide a total of 1200 parking spots at this location. Work will commence about in July.
There are other possible projects that have been discussed but are not in either of the state regional plans.I plan to update this document with any additional information I may obtain in the future.

More regionally, we find several projects having potential impact on us:

  • Segment "E" of SH-99 (Grand Parkway) from I-10 to SH-290. $180 million from stimulus package starting 2009 and open to traffic in 2011. The continuing development of this road leads us to conclude that the project will meet its schedule of completion by 2015. The probability of impacting regional transportation and development of the region becomes higher with segments "F-1" (SH-290 to SH-249) and "F-2" completion by 2013. It will provide regional residents including us, access to the Grand Parkway and thereby to other freeways from relative close junctures to traffic on SH-2920, SH-2978, Kuykendahl, and Gosling and at several points along the way in Harris County. This will tie our region to the Houston-Galveston regions. Construction is scheduled to begin on segment F-2 in 2010 and open to traffic in 20136. F-2 is currently in "Design Phase". The F-1 segment is scheduled to open in 2012 so that when segment F-2 opens, we will have a fully functional 45 MPH or faster roadway all the way to I-10 West and beyond to the southwest. The implication here is that development will be opened up along that road and expand out, providing a better mobility platform for development to the west of The Woodlands, especially to fill in near and around Tomball. We can speculate on what will happen with SH-149 and SH-249 in the long term as a result of the availability of this highway.
  • Hardy Toll Rd Extension is in design phase now. Construction is planned to begin late in 2009. This will help commuters living in The Woodlands get to downtown and the medical center during rush hours. It may change some of the bus routes for the bus systems using the park and rides of The Woodlands7.
Regarding plans for pathways and bicycle lanes to help move people about locally:
  • A path is scheduled to be built in 2009 from the pathway at Gosling and Panther Creek to the entrance of Creekside Park Village. This will improve safety for pedestrians and bike riders traveling between villages.
  • A path is also planned in 2009 for the missing segment on Flintridge.
  • Additional paths are planned for Creekside Park but no information is quickly available at this time.
  • Bike lane plans are not readily available. To discover those plans, if any, is an action item for me.
Plans for mass transit includes:
  • Park and Ride center in Town Center. Application has been submitted for a federal grant. Included in this plan is a vertical parking garage and additional bus capacity to downtown Houston for regional passengers.
  • Expansion of Park and Ride in Sterling Ridge. $1.9 million in a grant and another $2.3 million in stimulus funds will fund this 2009 project. The facility which will include an additional 1,000 spaces (currently 200 spaces are there) and a permanent passenger facility. Construction should begin in May or June of this year.
  • Trolley service to/from village shopping centers using the centers as parking lots.
References
  1. 2035 TxDot RTP as input by Montgomery County
  2. PDF file from TxDot - Montgomery County Projects in the 2035 RTP, dated Nov 19, 2007.
  3. Houston-Galveston MPO 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program FY 2009 Projects County TXDOT District: Houston. February 2009 Update.
  4. Houston-Galveston MPO Out of Cycle Projects. March 2009 Update.
  5. The Villager - Woodlands Growth brings traffic, road projects. 01-23-09
  6. Grand Parkway Project - schedule
  7. Hardy Toll Road Extension Project

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