(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Last month Harris County commissioners voted in favor of letting the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) build a portion of the Grand Parkway. The state has accepted the job and says it will construct three segments of the 180-mile ring road which will loop around Greater Houston. Harris County stepped back from the project after learning that TxDOT expects to have $425 million dollars available for the road this year. TxDOT spokesperson Karen Amacker says it’s now up to the department to" deliver the transportation system the state needs and we believe that the Grand Parkway is an important part of that system."
TxDOT will be developing all of the segments located in Harris County – three out of the proposed toll road’s eleven segments. Amacker says Segment E, which would connect Interstate 10 with 290, is likely to move forward first because “it’s the most shovel-ready.” She says it’s also one of the more “financially robust” segments of the Grand Parkway. The 14-mile section would run through the Katy Prairie and is expected to cost around $400 million dollars.
“It is certainly possible that the commission could identify funding for Segment E before the end of this year," says Amacker. "As for the other segments of the Grand Parkway, it will be a challenge, as it is with funding any transportation project in this challenging environment.”
Amacker says money for the Grand Parkway will come from a number of sources, including the State Highway Fund and bond proceeds. But the state is running low on money for new construction projects, so it’s unlikely funding for the other segments will be available anytime soon. As for Segment E, Harris County has yet to obtain a federal permit that would allow wetlands to be filled in for the construction of the highway. And without it, Segment E can’t be built.