Navasota residents waiting to see proposed toll road route
By ANDREA SALAZAR
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Plans for a Texas 249 toll road connecting Houston to Waco by way of Grimes County have left some landowners in limbo as transportation officials decide where to build the roadway.
"We're living on the edge of the unknown," said David Tullos, a coordinator for the Grimes Citizen Advisory Group, a grassroots coalition opposing the construction of the toll road, which would start out as a two-way road with a passing lane and eventually grow to a four-lane divided highway.
"It has created a degree of uncertainty," Tullos added. "If somebody wanted to sell property, they couldn't because the person buying would be buying into the unknown with the fact that a toll road could go through the property."
The proposed road to run from F.M. 1774 to Texas 105 received support from the city of Navasota in September when officials signed a memorandum of understanding with Texas Department of Transportation officials, agreeing to work together to bring the toll road to fruition leading into Navasota.
"It's a really good thing for the city because it helps us with an alternate route for moving people and goods between Houston and our area and helps our industrial park," said City Manager Brad Stafford.
Stafford said the agreement was signed after Navasota residents voiced concerns that the toll road might bypass the city.
"It was a way for the city to get some concessions that are important to the city," Mayor Bert Miller said, noting that the agreement would make for a "better project."
According to the memorandum, TxDOT would also begin planning to expand Texas 105 to a four-lane divided highway one year after the Texas 249 toll project receives environmental approval.
The $100 million project has not been finalized, but transportation officials expect an environmental impact study to be completed in the spring followed by a public meeting announcing the route chosen.
Tullos argued the toll road would have negative economic effects on the county and make it harder for emergency personnel to do their jobs.
"If they built a toll road that's not going to have ingress or egress for people to get on or off to businesses, then there's no incentive for businesses to start there in the first place," Tullos said, adding that people won't want to exit a toll road if they'll have to pay to re-enter.
Tullos also worried that, without contiguous frontage roads, emergency crews would take longer to arrive on a scene.
The TxDOT proposal would build frontage roads once the toll road starts making a profit. As per a state law, however, emergency vehicles would be granted free access to the toll road.
TxDOT officials have said the toll road would improve safety, address traffic growth and enhance the region's ability to evacuate in emergency situations.
Between 2008 and 2012, TxDOT reported 207 crashes along F.M. 1774, from Waller County to Texas 105, and Texas 105 from F.M. 1774 to Texas 6.