Road planners said this week that they put the brakes on an
unpopular proposal to convert an eight-mile stretch of Texas highway in
northwest Harris County into a toll road to fund a northward extension.
Instead, they told a group of local officials, residents and
business owners that other funding options would be considered for Texas
Highway 249, the Tomball Parkway, including a mix of free and high-occupancy
Bruce Hillegeist, president of the Tomball Area Chamber of
Commerce, told the Houston Chronicle that the Oct. 11 announcement by
Gary Trietsch, district engineer for the Texas Transportation Department, helps
alleviate concerns that a toll road would harm “the vitality and growth of our
The targeted segment, from the Sam Houston Tollway to a
point two miles north of Spring Cypress Road, consists of a six- to eight-lane
freeway with three-lane frontage roads in the area southeast of Tomball. Its
conversion to a toll road would have been the state’s first use of a new
funding tool authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2003.
The Texas Transportation Commission mandates all major new
road projects and expansions be studied to see whether toll financing is
The proposed extension of the segment through Tomball to
Pinehurst and eventually Navasota could still be developed as a toll road,
Trietsch said. Currently, that stretch is a mix of three-lane frontage roads
and a four- to six-lane highway with stoplights.
The decision to not toll Texas 249 follows a similar
conclusion reached last month on the state’s far west side.
In El Paso, a task force turned aside a recommendation to
toll motorists on Interstate 10 or Loop 375 to pay for road improvements.
Instead, the group opted to consider tolling only large trucks on a possible
new tollway in far west El Paso County. It would be called the Northeast
The task force estimates the toll road would cost more than
TxDOT says construction could start in the next five years.