NAVASOTA State transportation officials have been talking about extending Highway 249 in Houston for decades. Now, it looks like that project may finally be happening.
"The traffic is coming whether we want it or not, and so we need to have somewhere to put this traffic," said Bob Colwell, Texas Department of Transportation.
Colwell says the project would connect Highway 249 to Highway 6 in Navasota. The goals of the project are to improve safety, address traffic growth, improve regional connections, and address evacuation needs in case of emergencies.
"The project includes constructing a two-lane roadway with a passing lane in alternating directions and shoulders within a right-of-way that would accommodate future widening to a four-lane divided roadway," according to a TxDOT press release.
At this point, transportation officials don't know exactly where the road would go, how the road would be funded, if it would be a toll road, or how much land they'd need. However, one thing is certain...
"It's going to affect the people of Grimes County, so we want to hear what they have to say," said Colwell.
Well over 100 people showed up for the project's first public meeting at the Grimes County Expo Center to voice their concerns, but TxDOT only accepted written questions and concerns.
"You don't get a face-to-face. You can't tell if they're lying. You'll have to wait for an answer, if you even get an answer," said Amy Galloway.
Grimes County residents who are opposed to the project have come together to form a group called "Stop Grimes 249".
"This road is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It's going to displace people - a lot of whom can't afford to be displaced. By TxDOT's own figures, the tolls cannot possibly pay for this road," said Carlyle Fraser, a member of Stop Grimes 249.
Members of "Stop Grimes 249" say building the new highway would be fiscally irresponsible.
Transportation officials say the project is still in it's early stages, so they don't have answers to every question. However, they say the public's feedback will help them develop a plan that affects as few people as possible.
"We want everyone's comments whether they're for it or against it, and were going to take all those into consideration," said Colwell.
Colwell says one option is not building the highway at all.
The project is expected to cost between $600-800 million.
Written comments about the proposed project may be submitted on or before November 12, 2013 to:
Klotz Associates, Attn: Jeff Casbeer
1160 Dairy Ashford, Suite 500
Houston, Texas 77079
Comments may also be emailed on or before November 12, 2013, to SH249Study@Klotz.com.
Answers to questions from the public are expected to be posted on the TxDOT web site by the end of December.