A dozen elected and appointed officials today appealed to the Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council to move forward on improvements to State Highway 146 from Red Bluff to FM 518. Listen
“We’ve got one goal – to get this project started sooner rather than later,” said Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman, who said he is working with Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark to facilitate the project.
James Koch, director of transportation and planning for the Texas Department of Transportation Houston District, explained that the proposed expansion would consist of a six to twelve lane divided freeway with grade separations at major intersections, access roads in selected locations and express lanes over Clear Creek.
“We are proposing to widen the existing (Kemah) bridge and then adjacent to that we will have a new express lane bridge,” Koch said. “We’ll be able to accommodate bike traffic on the existing bridge.”
Those who spoke included State Senator Mike Jackson; State Representatives John Davis and Wayne Smith; mayors Wayne Riddle (Deer Park), Louis Rigby (La Porte), and Glenn Royal (Seabrook); Port of Houston Authority Commissioner Jimmy Burke; Kemah City Administrator Rick Beverlin; Economic Alliance Houston Port Region President Chad Burke; and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell.
“We represent both Harris and Galveston Counties,” Mitchell said. “About 800,000 people that we represent live and work in that region. We have 13 cities that are members of the organization. Highway 146 is in need of a major, serious makeover.”
Mitchell and others stressed the need of improvements for economic development, tourism and hurricane evacuation.
Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski appeared before the TPC to appeal for help in his city’s battle to maintain its existing “small urban area” status for distribution of federal funding after suffering a severe reduction in population after Hurricane Ike.
Jaworski asked the TPC to help Galveston by writing a letter of support, to consider subsidizing the city’s anticipated loss of $700,000 per year, or to consider reallocation of transit funding from other entities in the H-GAC region. Listen
“The good news is Galveston is in recovery,” Jaworski said.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said all of the cities are in competition for funds.
“We’re called the Houston-Galveston Area Council,” Emmett said. “We’ve got a real disparity. “Houston is 2.2 million, Galveston is less than 50,000. Some people say, why are we still called Houston-Galveston? Why aren’t we called Houston-whatever the next largest city is?”
The TPC voted unanimously to approve a resolution for approval of amendments to the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program and 2035 Regional Transportation Plan.
The TPC voted unanimously to approve the selection process for projects to be included in the 2013-2016 TIP.
All other action items on the agenda were approved with unanimous votes. Agenda
League City Council Member Mick Phalen, Missouri City Assistant City Manager Scott Elmer and Texas City City Engineer Doug Kneupper, were absent and not represented by alternate members.
Houston City Council Members Stephen Costello and Melissa Noriega were absent, but they were represented by Council Members Jerry Davis and Larry Green, their alternate members; Sugar Land Council Member Jacqueline Baly-Chaumette was represented by Council Member Harish Jajoo, West University Place Mayor Robert A. Fry was represented by Bellaire Council Member Pat McLaughlan. H-GAC Executive Director Jack Steele attended as an alternate to the vacant Chief Operating Officer position; and Maureen Crocker attended as an alternate for Mark Ellis, chair of the Gulf Coast Rail District.
Although Galveston Mayor Jaworski addressed the TPC, Galveston did not have a representative at the table. The designated member, Dianna Puccetti is no longer on the city council and is in a runoff election for a new position; and Council Member Rusty Legg, her designated alternate, did not attend the meeting.
The next meeting of the TPC will be on June 22.