Waller County seeking funding for parkway
Dustin Wenzel , firstname.lastname@example.org | 02-Jul-2007
What was supposed to be a small change to a map in a Katy area county has now turned into a mobility campaign as Waller County officials are searching for ways to fund a major thoroughfare that they hope will double as a hurricane evacuation route.
The Waller County Prairie Parkway has been on Waller County's thoroughfare development plan since 1985 as a north-south thoroughfare throughout the county, but county officials updated it earlier this year partly because of the development of the Houston Executive Airport.
The proposed parkway begins at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Woods Road and continues north through FM 529 to Highway 290 and James Muse Road. The plan puts the parkway one mile west of the new airport, more west than originally planned in 1985 when the parkway was planned with the Houston Westside Airport that was never built.
Waller County Commissioner's Court will vote on the amended plan June 19 after the City of Houston planning commission saw no problems with the part of the plan in Houston's extraterritorial jurisdiction.
"The idea of the hurricane evacuation brought interest up," said Orval Rhoads, consultant to Waller County. "There's an undercurrent here that's really exciting. This is a dream for Waller County.
"This could be - along with Houston Executive Airport - the major guide to economic development in Waller County."
Rhoads, who spoke at the Katy Area Economic Development Council general assembly meeting June 12, said the parkway's original intent was to become another loop around Houston on the outskirts of the city. That view has changed now, as the Prairie Parkway is now being viewed as a potential evacuation point to get motorists from Interstate 10 and Highway 290 amid the gridlock that Waller County and Interstate 10 saw before Hurricane Rita came ashore in late 2005.
"Waller County was full of cars trying to figure out how to get from I-10 to 290," Rhoads said. "It was pretty devastating for people that live in Waller County because they filled up the farm roads."
Rhoads said he envisions the 25-mile road to mirror the Grand Parkway, a four-lane highway with two-lane frontage roads. A map of the proposal is not available until commissioner's court approves the plan, Rhoads said.
Among the funding options for the parkway is making it a toll way with similar operations as the Westpark Tollway, where the Harris County Toll Road Authority built, staffed and collected funds from the tollway and cut Fort Bend County a check for building it inside county lines.
"That's probably Waller County's best option because they cannot simply afford the financing and the staff to do that type of thing," Rhoads said. "That's speculation at this time but that's the type of conversations we've had."
"A few trucks that come in from the Gulf of Mexico and come into Waller County pay a toll and drop off a little money because they are either picking up or dropping off goods, there's nothing wrong with that."
Also at the meeting, Katy Area EDC CEO Lance LaCour said the Katy area is a finalist in five projects that will cumulatively bring in around 1,000 jobs.
LaCour said the EDC has seen a high interest in the industrial corridor between Katy and Brookshire on Highway 90.
"Economic development is a marathon, not a sprint," LaCour said. "Sometime it takes awhile for it to happen."