Nearly two years after the opening of Phase I, construction will begin this month on the next phase to bring Hwy. 249 into Montgomery County.
Officials with the Harris County Toll Road Authority, Montgomery County and the Texas Department of Transportation spoke Friday during a luncheon hosted by the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce at Lone Star College-Tomball. The project, which is broken up into four phases is a joint project between HCTRA, TxDOT and the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority.
John Tyler, deputy director of engineering at HCTRA, said construction will begin at the end of this month on the southbound frontage lanes of Phase II, which will extend the existing tollway from north of FM 2920 in Tomball to the county line at Spring Creek.
“The new facility is going to take the existing three lanes and push them to the outside of the existing right of way to allow the tollway to be constructed in the center,” Tyler said. “If you look at [LSC-Tomball], everything to the west of where the road is today, there will be a frontage road out there. You may have seen some trees being removed for the utility lines along that corridor. Traffic will remain where it is today—it won’t be impacted.”
Tyler said once the southbound lanes are complete, traffic will shifted left to allow HCTRA to work on northbound lanes. Once both sides of the frontage roads are complete, the existing roadway north of FM 2920 will be completely removed and replaced with the tollway roads. During this time, drivers will be able to use both sets of the new frontage roads.
Although the new on-ramps in Phase II will be tolled, HCTRA will not be adding an additional toll plaza. This means drivers already on the Tomball Tollway will not have to pay additional tolls until they reach Pinedale Circle in Pinehurst, where a toll plaza will be constructed as part of Phase III. James Baker, the Houston operations manager for Halff Associates Inc. and the program manager for MCTRA, said he estimates tolls at the Pinehurst plaza will be around $1.
Phase III will span 3.5 miles from Spring Creek to FM 149 in Pinehurst. Baker said design is 80 percent complete on Montgomery County’s portion of the project. MCTRA is expected to begin work in early 2018 and it will take 20 months, with a joint opening of both phases in December 2019.
Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said county officials are looking forward to working with HCTRA to bring the roadway north through Magnolia.
“It’s amazing to see what [Hwy.] 249 has done in the Tomball area, and I cannot wait to see it move up north across the creek,” Riley said. “The economical development along that road, … the numbers are amazing. We’ll do whatever it takes to make this happen—we’re looking forward to it.”
Phase IV will stretch 25 miles from Montgomery County to Grimes County, crossing FMs 149, 1774, 1488 and 1486 in Magnolia in the process. TxDOT’s Houston District Engineer Quincy Allen said Phase IV will be a design-build project, meaning TxDOT will accept proposals for the project, rather than sending it out for construction bids.
“Design-build is a delivery model that lets us move a bit faster,” Allen said. “We can do design and construction at the same time.”
Allen said TxDOT is expecting proposals from two selected providers in March, after which the proposals will go through extensive screening before construction. TxDOT expects the project to be awarded to a provider in April and the notice to proceed with construction will be given in July.
“Our goal is also to finish 2019,” Allen said. “We’re excited, March is right around the corner [and] time is moving fast.”