Conroe, June 11 – After a bit of shuffling around within the agenda, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley have placed an agenda item to “consider, discuss and take appropriate action on resolution in support of the Montgomery County portion of the 249 tollway.” In the original draft agenda, Doyal, as County Judge, was going to sponsor the resolution, but, at the last minute before posting of the agenda, Doyal moved the item to have Riley sponsor it instead.
The 249 tollway is better known as the Decimation of Hope Highway due to the fiscal decimation it has already done to Montgomery County and is likely to cause in the future. Doyal, Riley, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador have already approved more than $13 million of spending on the road project out of County general revenue funds. At present, Doyal, Riley, and the project’s contractors are projecting that the 3.6 miles of road will cost $73 million to construct, making the project one of the most expensive highways in American history.
The $73 million Decimation of Hope Highway will extend Tx-249’s expansion from Spring Creek on the south to F.M. 149 at the north. The Texas Department of Transportation will construct the remainder of the project.
Rounding up the propaganda troops
On May 31, 2017, Doyal and Riley met with the “249 Partnership,” a group most composed of out-of-county vendors and special interests to plan a propaganda campaign in favor of the road, which will almost entirely benefit Tomball and Harris County with little benefit to Magnolia or Montgomery County. In fact, engineering projections have shown that the tollroad will do nothing to relieve congestion in Montgomery County, while it has effectively robbed the County of funds that the Commissioners Court should have used to widen and improve F.M. 1488 from the Waller County line to Mostyn Manor, the stretch of road that even Riley has admitted is the most urgent mobility need in all of Montgomery County.
On Tuesday, June 6, the Magnolia City Council passed a resolution in favor of the project which such resolution contained numerous factual errors.
Citizens who are concerned about the fiscal future of Montgomery County should attend the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., on the Fourth Floor of the Sadler Administration Building to provide citizen input, through citizen comments, to the Court.
There are 3 myths about $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 Decimation of Hope Highway road project that citizens must dispel immediately.
Myth #1: Montgomery County needs to pay for the Tx-249 extension. That is false! In actuality, the Texas Department of Transportation already has sufficient funding from federal and state highway funds that you’ve already paid for the project and would build the road without Montgomery County managing the 3.6 mile project. Harris County’s Toll Road Authority has built the road just south of the 3.6 miles at issue. Tx-DOT will build the road, if Montgomery County chooses not to do so.
Tx-DOT has confirmed to Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack who explained those facts in speeches he’s given in The Woodlands and Conroe. Even James Baker of Halff Associates, Inc., the project manager of the 3.6 mile boondoggle, has admitted that Tx-DOT would build the road, if Montgomery County chose not to do so. The reader may recall that Halff Associates is the company of which Doyal’s best friend and business partner, Bobby Jack Adams, is vice president. Doyal has never recused himself from any of the votes awarding millions of dollars to the company of his business partner.
Montgomery County entered into a written contract with Tx-DOT under which the County could give the entire project back to Tx-DOT. Tx-DOT would reimburse Montgomery County for the funds already spent (to the extent they were reasonable).
The real issue before the Commissioners Court is not whether the Tx-249 extension should occur. It will happen whether Montgomery County builds there road or not. Rather, the issue is whether Montgomery County should bear the financial risk so that Doyal and Riley can control which County vendors, who are their major political contributors and almost all of whom hail from outside of Montgomery County, will receive the millions of dollars for the exorbitantly-priced project.
Myth #2: The project isn’t using citizen tax dollars. That is false! The County Commissioners Court has spent just over $13 million of general revenue funds so far on the 3.6 mile project, even though construction has not yet begun. The engineering charges are exorbitant. Halff Associates has done little or nothing to manage the costs, as the massive price tag proves.
Rich Muller, the attorney working as an outside vendor for Montgomery County, has admitted that the tollway project would never pass a voter referendum. Therefore, instead of financing the $73 million with general obligation bonds at lower interest rates, Doyal and Riley intend on financing the project through certificates of obligation or revenue bonds with higher rates of interest and the serious possibility that the County’s credit will be at risk.
Myth #3: Tx-249 is an important mobility project for Montgomery County. That is false! The tollway is part of a longer road that would connect Houston’s Beltway 8 eventually to College Station. Precinct 2 is a mobility mess, especially because Riley and Doyal have failed to address the widening of F.M. 1488.
Riley and Doyal have tried to argue that Tx-249 will bring more traffic to the Magnolia area. At this point, Magnolia doesn’t need more congestion. Rather, the Magnolia area could have used the wasted $13 million already spent on this ridiculous 3.6 mile road on the widening of F.M. 1488. F.M. 1488 from the Waller County line to Mostyn Manor remains a 2-lane road, which is patently crazy considering the amount of traffic that moves through here.
Tx-249 is nothing but a boondoggle for Doyal’s and Riley’s favored political contributors. The County should have nothing to do with that project, which Tx-DOT would build on its own without Montgomery County citizens bearing the burden. In fact, it’s not clear that Tx-DOT would even build the road as a tollway at all. Therefore, Montgomery County citizens who use the road, if Tx-DOT built it, might save some coin paying for the 3.6 mile road stretch again.