Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"I think we will have even more exciting new projects to mention in 2008."

County seeks funding for proposed toll-road study

Officials are trying to secure funding for a $550,000 study that could reveal potential roadblocks for an anticipated 10.8-mile toll road project.


By Tiffany Williams
The Courier (Montgomery County)
Copyright 2007

County commissioners decided Monday to apply for a State Infrastructure Bank loan - handed out by the Texas Transportation Commission - to fund a "fatal flaw" study that will reveal if there are any impenetrable barriers to building a north-south connector linking major east Montgomery County thoroughfares.

"Today was a very significant step for transportation in the county," said Montgomery County Judge Alan B. Sadler. "I think we will have even more exciting new projects to mention in 2008."

The SIB loan maintains a below 4-percent interest rate, making it an appealing choice for commissioners.

"The rate is low and the state is doing this to facilitate and urge counties and cities to do their own type of transportation study," Sadler said.

The loan application process will take slightly longer than the other funding mechanisms advisers proposed during Commissioners Court Monday. However, Jennie Taraborelli, a partner with Pate Transportation Partners, said applying for the loan shouldn't much delay the study's expected completion date of late April.

Pate Transportation Partners, based in Houston, has paired up with the county to help identify and meet the county's transportation needs.

To be approved for the loan, Taraborelli said, Montgomery County will have to garner the consent of the Houston division of the Texas Department of Transportation. She said she doesn't believe it will be a problem as long as Montgomery County officials are able to identify a funding source to repay the loan.

Sadler said he doesn't believe the study - which will examine eight components, including financing, environmental concerns and engineering - will reveal any barriers that could stand in the way of the toll project.

If the project linking the Grand Parkway and Texas 242 is deemed worthy, Montgomery County will build it as the first phase in a three-phase plan. The first phase links the Hardy Toll Road with Riley Fuzzel Road, traveling north to Texas 242. In the second phase, the road will continue north to Texas 105 East. In the third phase, toll lanes will be created on Texas 242 between U.S. 59 and Interstate 45.

"The feedback I've heard is people want the projects," Sadler said. "The situation is dire in the county. We have to move forward on various fronts."

Saying he believes relying on the full faith and credit of the county to back the toll projects and conventional transportation projects "would tax citizens unduly," Sadler said the projects might be funded through toll revenue bonds or private partnerships.

Montgomery County leaders will have to look to the east portion up the county, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ed Rinehart said, to look for a north-south thoroughfare that will serve as an alternative to I-45.

"We have no other choice, except to go to (Texas) 242," Rinehart said.

He added he would like to see a connector linking the proposed 180-mile Grand Parkway project with Community Drive and U.S. 59. The addition, he said, would help ease congestion around current and anticipated new commercial structures in east Montgomery County.
Tiffany Williams can be reached at twilliams@hcnonline.com.

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