Riley, Commissioners Court hide $135K spending item on super-secret “consent agenda” due to its controversial nature
Conroe, Magnolia, and The Woodlands, July 8 – If there’s anyone who is a genuine master of creating traffic jams, destroying mobility for personal gain, and dealing with the citizens of south Montgomery County with utmost duplicity, it’s Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley.
He’s at it again. Don’t think for a second that Riley doesn’t intend to build the Woodlands Parkway Extension (WPX) eventually in order to bring traffic to his beloved TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway. The 2014 Traffic and Revenue Study to support construction of the TX 249 Tollway, which Riley forced on Montgomery County citizens as a tollroad, even though the Texas Department of Transportation had made clear they’d build the road as a freeway instead, made clear that bringing traffic from The Woodlands over a WPX was a critical assumption to support the revenue projections for the bonds for the TX 249 Tollway.
Voter rejection of the May, 2015, bond referendum, which included Riley’s WPX project, got in the way. Nevertheless, Riley, who is a member of the Houston-Galveston Area Councils’ (HGAC) Transportation Policy Council, made sure that HGAC continued to include WPX as part of its Major Thoroughfare Plan in 2016 after voters had rejected WPX. Of course, Riley lied to voters during the March 2018 Republican Primary Runoff that he has no intention of building WPX, but his insistence upon keeping WPX on the HGAC Major Thoroughfare Plan revealed Riley’s true intention to build WPX whether voters wanted it or not, just as Riley didn’t care of Montgomery County citizens wanted the TX 249 Tollway either.
Riley has clearly always treated real estate developer Rick Shelton, engineering firm Halff Associates, and approximately half a dozen County government vendors as the only constituents with whom he’ll have frank discussions. Riley carefully hides from communication with prying citizens who seek to communicate with him directly.
On January 23, 2018, a moderator at a candidate forum asked Riley, “Do you believe the Woodlands Parkway Extension should be removed from the [HGAC] major thoroughfare plan?” Riley’s answer to the question about WPX was quite illuminating:
“No, I don’t believe it [WPX or Woodtrace Boulevard] should be removed from the Thoroughfare Plan, because the developers on the west side need it. It needs to stay on there!”
In other words, Riley still supports WPX because some real estate developers “need it” even though the voters in his own Commissioners Precinct 2 (Magnolia and surrounding areas) and Commissioners Precinct 3 (The Woodlands) staunchly rejected WPX.
Tuesday, July 9, Commissioners Court meeting: Riley ready to spend $135,279.80 on moving WPX forward
Riley has placed on the agenda for the July 9, 2019, 9:30 a.m., Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting his plan to spend $135,279.80 to acquire property to connect “Woodtrace Boulevard” to FM 2978 at Mansions Way, approximately one-quarter mile south of where Woodlands Parkway intersects with FM 2978. The drawings for the westward Mansions Way extension show that it connects with Riley’s proposed Woodtrace Boulevard heading northwest approximately less than one-third of a mile from FM 2978. If one looks at Riley’s Major Thoroughfare Plan drawing immediately above, where Mansions Way connects with Woodtrace Boulevard, also known as the Woodlands Parkway Extension, is before the second purple dot as one moves west on the map from FM 2978.
The Woodtrace Boulevard/Woodlands Parkway Extension road will extend from TX 249, as shown on the HGAC Major Thoroughfare Plan map, heading eastward until it hits Mansions Way. Traffic will then cut slightly southward to connect to FM 2978.
The impact will primarily be that traffic heading west on Woodlands Parkway will cut left heading south on FM 2978 before turning onto the short Mansions Way triangle connecting traffic with Woodtrace Boulevard, while traffic hearing east towards Woodlands Parkway will have to cut right heading north on FM 2978 before turning onto the current footprint of Woodlands Parkway.
The Golden Hammer has confirmed with two individuals who work in the Texas Department of Transportation’s Regional Office that they have discussed both with Riley and with one particular employee in Riley’s office both of whom have acknowledged that Mansions Way is only a temporary “fix” which Riley knows will create a worse major traffic pileup on FM 2978 than the one Riley has already allowed to exist for so long. According to the two sources inside of TxDOT, Riley is “hoping” that the traffic jam on FM 2978 will lead to individuals in The Woodlands and along FM 2978 to “call for Riley to connect Woodlands Parkway directly.” The two TxDOT employees have requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Of course, Riley placed the WPX agenda item (Mansions Way) under the County Attorney on the super-secret “consent agenda” in the hope that no one will notice the scheme prior to members of the Commissioners Court voting to approve it.
WPX plans from year ago
On July 27, 2019, this newspaper ran a story in which a number of individuals confirmed that Riley and others intended to proceed with construction of WPX through assistance of Magnolia real estate developer Tim Weems, who owns substantial property along the FM 2978 right-of-way, and the Westwood Magnolia Parkway Improvement District (WiMP). Please see “Riley, Eissler, TWDC to plow forward with Woodlands Parkway Extension,” The Golden Hammer, July 27, 2019.
Rob Eissler, the President of WiMP and the lobbyist for WiMP, confirmed the situation and was very forthright with this newspaper. Eissler said the WiMP would not fund the entire WPX but was interested in a portion of it, particularly the areas around Weems’ property and a commercial property, which Weems and others own approximately 6 miles west of TX 249. Eissler also explained that the WiMP Board has not formally considered the request. Eissler said that he did review “the maps.”
Most disconcerting of all, however, in this newspaper’s interview with the forthright Eissler, was Eissler’s comment that “we [WiMP] might build a part of WPX, but the discussions clearly involve the County government funding some other portion of it.”