Conroe, May 11 – Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, County Judge Craig Doyal, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador carefully looked away as citizens Kelli Cook and Keith Lincoln spoke about the plain truth about tollroads during the May 8, 2018, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court. Tollroads actually cause traffic congestion rather than alleviating it, because their economic impact is to dissuade people from using them.
The Federal Highway Administration and numerous university research centers have conducted studies to measure whether tollroads help or hurt with traffic congestion. Almost unanimously, the studies have concluded that tollroads disincentivize people from using them.
Very clearly, the likely impact of the TX 249 Tollway will be to create massive traffic congestion along the frontage roads which already exist along the route from Spring Creek to Pinehurst. North of Pinehurst the TX 249 Tollway will not have frontage roads, so that traffic and economic development will likely avoid the pathway of that road for many years to come, as residents of North Dallas have observed along the route of the George Herbert Walker Bush Tollway north of Addison.
The SH 242 flyovers illustrate the precise economic impact of tollroads. They take up immense space where traffic could otherwise flow but does not due to the tolls. As a result the northbound frontage road parallel to Interstate 45 has massive traffic pileups. Likewise, State Highway 242 westbound towards the intersection of I-45 is also a traffic nightmare, because traffic does not utilize the tolled flyover which does little more than take up space.
Campaign for Liberty Gulf Coast Regional Chair Kelli Cook of Montgomery made that point during her citizen comment. “They have rejected your tollroad by refusing to use it very often. Mostly everybody else is piled up in a traffic jam boycotting the tollroad,” Cook told the Commissioners Court, as Riley, Doyal, and Meador looked anywhere by the podium where Cook stood to speak.
Keith Lincoln, a citizen-activist and community leader from Harper’s Landing, also spoke to the Commissioners Court for the first time to express the terrible economic impact the flyover tolls have had on Harper’s Landing and Harper’s Preserve, two communities near the intersection of SH 242 and I-45.
Lincoln’s entire citizen comment follows.
“Thank you, Judge Doyal and the Commissioners, for allowing me to speak. My name is Keith Lincoln and I live in Harper’s Landing. I guess I’m newly designated in my community as a community leader for Harper’s Landing and Harper’s Preserve.
“Due to the increasing traffic troubles we’ve had at the intersection of I-45 and SH 242, this situation has deteriorated rapidly over the last year. I can talk about the will and the people. I think you know what the will is. But let me tell you what I’ve been doing.
“I’ve been meeting diligently with Commissioner Jim Clark in Precinct 4 who is my Commissioner. I’ve been meeting with the TxDOT. I had a meeting last week to discuss this very issue and we had over 125 people show up. I can tell you that you don’t have 125 people here. I had 125 people show up to discuss tollroads and another 200 to 300 who are part of our social media exchanging their concerns and frustrations over the situation. In my meetings we’ve been methodically addressing the various problems we’ve had with TxDOT.
“We can’t get in and out of our neighborhoods safely. We’ve had a number of problems. So we’ve worked with TxDOT who have done traffic studies from start to finish all the way up and down 242 on how to improve the situation.
“The problem right now that I can’t change and that TxDOT can’t change is that we can’t remove the tolls, because we can’t the votes from you gentlemen.
“The reason these tolls need to be removed is because these flybys haven’t met the purpose for which they were intended which was to take the traffic away from the intersection. We have a dangerous intersection. And the flybys stay empty because of the tolls. You can call it a boycott. You can call it people being frugal with their money. I can tell you as a husband, my wife has to drive through that intersection. My children drive through that intersection. If we took the tollroads everyday, then the cost becomes substantial. And I know people will say ‘it’s only 50 cents and why not take it?’ We refuse.
“So you can either vote to remove the tolls because that’s what we want or I’ll give you a plan B. It’s to add new tolls on the Woodlands Parkway, on Lake Woodlands, and on 1488, and charge everyone else to get in and out of their neighborhood like we have to pay to get in and out of our neighborhood. Find out how popular you gentlemen will be with the rest of the community.
“We’ve been singled out. We’ve paid for the flybys. There’s no reason to keep the tolls in place. Unfortunately, they sit there unused. They sit there unmaintained. And we sit in traffic. I’ve been rear-ended. My son has been rear-ended. It’s a dangerous intersection. By removing the tolls, we can increase the utilization. Then we can work with TxDOT to retime that light so the traffic that backs up in other directions can be corrected.”
Lincoln received thunderous applause from the audience at the conclusion of his speech when Doyal interrupted Lincoln immediately upon Lincoln reaching 3 minutes. Lincoln is not an elected official, County vendor, or close friend of Doyal’s, so he does not receive favorable treatment from Doyal with respect to how long he may speak.