Image: Looking west on F.M. 1488 in front of the entrance to Mostyn Manor where the road switches from a 4-lane to a 2-lane thoroughfare.
Magnolia and Conroe, May 8 – The biggest victims of the $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 Extension Toll Road, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, are the citizens of Montgomery County’s Commissioner Precinct 2. Their County Commissioner is Charlie Riley. Before Riley, current County Judge Craig Doyal served as the Precinct 2 County Commissioner. Both Doyal and Riley have turned their backs on the citizens of Precinct 2 and chosen to favor the engineers and contractors who give them massive political contributions instead.
The single greatest mobility need in Montgomery County is, in fact, in Commissioner’s Precinct 2, but Doyal and Riley have ignored it.
At the April 25, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting, Riley identified the single greatest mobility need in all of Montgomery County: the widening of F.M. 1488 from the Waller County line in the west to Mostyn Manor to the east. Traffic along that stretch of road during “rush hours” is a total mess of bumper-to-bumper traffic. F.M. 1488 is still a 2-lane road in one of the most highly trafficked stretches of road in the entire County. The Montgomery County community has witnessed the development of many new subdivisions and commercial areas west of Mostyn Manor, but Doyal, Riley, and the Montgomery County Commissioners Court have ignored this urgent necessity. Riley admitted that the F.M. 1488 widening along that stretch is the “most critical need” for mobility in all of Montgomery County.
Meanwhile, Doyal, Riley, and the Commissioners Court have plowed more than $12 million into the ridiculous Decimation of Hope Highway project. That project is a 3.6 mile stretch of road that will mostly benefit non-residents of Montgomery County. Their plan, which has never received voter approval, is to build a toll road to connect the Harris County Toll Road that stretches from Beltway 8 to Spring Creek, place their 3.6 mile toll road in the middle, and then “allow” the Texas Department of Transportation to build the remainder of the road from F.M. 1774 to College Station or however far citizens along the way will allow the road to happen. Community leaders in Grimes County have mostly opposed the construction of the so-called “Aggie Parkway” through their area. The biggest proponent of this highway boondoggle has been Harris County Commissioner “Cactus Jack” Cagle, who shows up at all of Riley’s and Doyal’s fundraising and political events to show his “support.”
The 3.6 mile stretch of road now has a budget of $73 million to make it one of the most expensive road projects per mile in the history of the United States. It will cost more than $20 million per mile! Doyal and Riley claim that they’ll pay for the road project with revenue bonds. Unfortunately, they’ve already taken approximately $12.6 million out of the Montgomery County General Fund, which they could have used instead for the “critical” mobility need, according to Riley, widening F.M. 1488. The other part of Doyal’s and Riley’s plan for the Decimation of Hope Highway is to keep it as a toll road essentially forever in the hope of making the road a “profit center” for the Montgomery County government.
Riley has explained that he believes the road is important to bring people into the Magnolia area for the extra two weekends of the Renaissance Festival and for another festival now planned for the Magnolia area. In other words, rather than solving the major problem in the middle of Commissioner Precinct 2, Riley is going to make that problem far worse by bringing more traffic into the area from outside of the County.
The big winners in the construction of the Decimation of Hope Highway project are Halff Associates, Inc., the company of Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Adams, and the half dozen or so other engineering and contracting firms who have received the County’s largesse so far. Doyal and Riley have enjoyed substantial political contributions from these companies. The companies love the taxpayers’ money. But the citizens of Montgomery County are paying the bills and the citizens of Precinct 2 are the victims of misdirected road funds.
Who will actually pay for the Decimation of Hope Highway? Answer: People who live in Commissioners Precinct 2, that’s who!
Since Doyal and Riley intend to make the 3.6 mile Decimation of Hope Highway a “profit” source for the County, they’ll have to pay off whatever debt the County incurs first, but then they’ve made clear they intend to keep tolling drivers on that road forever.
The important question then is: who will those drivers on that road be? Doyal and Riley explained at the April 11, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting that people from Commissioners Precinct 2 will be the ones who will use that wonderful 3.6 mile road stretch to get to the Houston area from the Magnolia area. In other words, the citizens of Precinct 2 will have to continuing paying tolls (taxes) forever so that Doyal and Riley can create this “profit center” for Montgomery County!
In the May 9, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting, Doyal, Riley, and Meador will vote for another $46,350 to pay Kuo-Chiang Lin’s Geotest Engineering, Inc., of Houston, for the Decimation of Hope Highway. It’s a shame for the citizens of Precinct 2 that the County won’t use those funds instead to prepare the plans for the widening of F.M. 1488.
Conclusion: Doyal and Riley have put themselves ahead of the citizens of Precinct 2 (and the entire County)
The most amazing fact about the Decimation of Hope Highway is that the Commissioners Court members confirmed at the April 11 meeting that the Texas Department of Transportation would build the 3.6 mile road anyway, even if Montgomery County backed away from the project.
In fact, under the contract between Montgomery County and TxDOT, which The Golden Hammer obtained through an Open Records Act request, TxDOT would pay Montgomery County most or all of the $12.6 million Montgomery County has already spent on the Decimation of Hope Highway, if Montgomery County chose not to proceed with the highway boondoggle.
The bottom line is that, while Doyal and Riley have put themselves and their “fat cat” political contributors ahead of the interests of Montgomery County, the more than $12.6 million they’ve already spent could go directly into widening F.M. 1488, a “critical” road project that even they’ve recognized as the greatest single mobility need of this area.