Monday, July 02, 2007

'Congestion pricing' planned for Mongomery County

Traffic relief coming to Montgomery Co., but it will cost you

Toll road coming to Montgomery Co.


Deborah Wrigley
KTRK-TV (Houston)
Copyright 2007

THE WOODLANDS - Montgomery County is booming and county leaders are looking for a way to handle the quickly growing population.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 398,000 people living in Montgomery County in 2006. That's more than a 35 percent increase from just six years before and nearly three times faster than the average population growth statewide.

That growth can perhaps best be felt near where I-45 crosses over Texas Highway 242 in southern Montgomery County. It is clogged with commuters every day. A solution is coming, but it will cost you.

Montgomery County has grown up and a lot of it has to do with The Woodlands. A ground cover of malls and commercial development follows the 81,000 people in The Woodlands in the 2005 census. And that means traffic, especially around FM 242 and I-45 and especially at rush hours.

"It does back up really bad right here," said Eve Cregar, who lives in The Woodlands, of the intersection. "I usually just go to 336 to avoid all of this."

Montgomery County has its Northstar traffic monitoring station. Ground zero for peak time gridlock is 242, with a new hospital complex and a new community college. The solution the local toll road authority is considering is a flyover ramp from 45 north to 242 both east and west.

"We're in much need of an additional north-south corridor, something similar to an extension of the Hardy Toll Road or off the Grand Parkway when it comes through Montgomery County," said Montgomery County Commissioner Ed Chance.

No toll rate has been set and no dirt has been turned. But it will be in months to come. Montgomery County has grown and grown congested enough that drivers may have to pay extra to move.

The Montgomery County Toll Road Authority is poised to set its rate at the next board meeting. It would also include something at the intersection that Harris County has learned not to do -- congestion pricing.

Meanwhile, Harris County commissioners are preparing to formally scrap their plans to apply congestion pricing to the Westpark Tollway. The commissioners came under fire last month after announcing they would increase tolls on all roads by 25 cents and double the tolls on the Westpark during rush hour. After hearing from hundreds of angry commuters who argued that there was no viable alternative to the toll road, the commissioners changed their minds.

They will formally rescind the increase later this month.

(Copyright © 2007, KTRK-TV)

© 2007 ABC Inc., KTRK-TV Houston.:

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