Segments B, C and D of State Highway 99 (also known as the Grand Parkway) have been proposed for removal from TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program for 2020. The UTP is a blueprint published by TxDOT at the beginning of each decade outlining the priorities for transportation spending over the next 10 years and detailing which specific projects will receive funding.
TxDOT officials explained that it was directed by the governor’s office to remove funding for the Grand Parkway in order to comply with 2014’s Proposition 1 and 2015’s Proposition 7, both of which were voter approved state constitutional amendments for transportation funding that specifically restricted the use of certain funds to non-tolled roads only. The recommendation will not affect non-tolled segments of the Grand Parkway, but most portions of the road, including Segment B which would pass through Alvin following the current route of State Highway 35, were proposed as tollways years ago.
Though no members of the public arrived at the TxDOT regional offices in Houston to participate in person during the public meeting streamed live from Austin, citizens were present in the capital and online. Issues related to the Grand Parkway were some of the most popular questions.
TxDOT officials in Austin answered many inquiries about the Grand Parkway with the recommendation that the questions be followed up with members of the Houston District office, but members of that office present at the stream from Austin said they were unable to answer any questions because they were unaware of the proposal to remove the Grand Parkway from the UTP until only one month ago and learned of the reason behind it during the public meeting on July 11 when it was announced to everyone else in response to an audience member’s question.
“I think this is purely political, you can tell, coming from the governor’s office,” TxDOT Houston District Director of Transportation Andy Mao said.
The current UTP removing the Grand Parkway has not been finalized, as a public comment period that began on July 11 will continue until Aug. 12.
“The key is they want to hear from the public, they want to hear from y’all,” Mao said, adding that if locals make themselves heard and direct comments toward TxDOT that they wish for the Grand Parkway to continue, officials will approach the governor’s office with information that the public supports the project.
“We’re kind of between a rock and a hard place between the public and the governor’s office and we need some support for the people who really wants it,” Mao said.
Larry Buehler, the economic development manager for the city of Alvin, agreed that if local residents want the road to be built, they must tell TxDOT.
“If this is going to stay in, the state needs to hear from you,” Buehler said. “We know it’s an economic engine, we know it’s congestion relief and we know it’s a safety issue.”