Austin, June 27 – The Texas Department of Transportation intends to hold a public hearing, as part of its regular monthly meeting, on whether to toll the extension of State Highway 249 from F.M. 1774 in Pinehurst to F.M. 1774 in Todd Mission, Texas, as a toll project on the state highway system. The Texas Transportation Commission (formerly known as the State Highway Board) will hold the meeting and hearing on Thursday, June 29, 2017, at the Commission office at 125 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas, at 9 a.m.
The question whether to declare the extension of Tx-249 as a toll project is item number 8 on Tx-DOT’s agenda for the meeting.
The portion of the road, which Tx-DOT will consider, is not the 3.6 miles of road known in Montgomery County as the Decimation of Hope Highway or the Tx-249 Taxway, the $73 million tollway project at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County, which County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley are foisting on Montgomery County citizens in order to funnel public funds to Halff Associates engineers, Jones & Carter engineers, Land Tech Surveyors, and others of their favored political contribution and legal defense fund contributors. They’ve already spent more than $13 million of Montgomery County government general funds on the tollway project without any voter approval.
To clarify, the following is a rough schematic of Tx-249 from south to north (generally):
Beltway 8 to Spring Creek (owned by Harris County)
Decimation of Hope Highway 3.6 miles (Spring Creek to FM 1774 in Pinehurst, owned either by Montgomery County or by Tx-DOT, depending upon who builds it)
Tx-DOT portion set for public hearing, approximately 11.4 miles, from FM 1774 in Pinehurst to FM 1774 in Todd Mission.
At more than $20 million per mile, the Decimation of Hope Highway will be among the most expensive road projects in American history. It’s approximately 5 times the price of what such a road in a rural area should cost.
The 3.6 miles of road would connect to Tx-249 in Harris County to the south and to the Tx-249 extension which is under discussion in Austin on Thursday to the north.
Governor Abbott and the Republican Party
Governor Greg Abbott ran on a campaign platform of opposing new toll roads in Texas when Texans elected him as Governor in 2014. The Republican Party of Texas Platform contains two planks which oppose new toll roads. One of the planks provides that “tolls should come off the road when the debt is retired…We oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop-up, or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private.” Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal originally ran for office in Montgomery County as a democrat for County Commissioner, Precinct 2. He along with the man who beat him, Malcolm Purvis, switched parties to the Republican Party in Purvis and Doyal were honest. Purvis was a Democrat. Doyal was (is) a Democrat. But they decided to run in the Republican Party in order to get elected in 1997. They were honest. Purvis always admitted that “I’ll always be a Democrat at heart.” His Operations Manager, Doyal, nodded his head in agreement at the Republican Candidates Committee meeting where they announced the switch.
Since highway users will already have paid for the construction of the roads with state and federal gasoline taxes, tolling the road will constitute double taxation.
State Representative Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands), who is running for Montgomery County Judge in the 2018 Republican Primary Election, has announced his opposition to Montgomery County funding or constructing any portion of the Tx-249 extension.
Local Tea Party organizations
Political activist, sage, and Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC Treasurer Bill O’Sullivan intends to attend the public hearing on Thursday in Austin to oppose the tolling of State Highway 249.
Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Tea Party’s Board of Directors issued the following letter to Governor Abbott today:
Dear Governor Abbott,
The Board of Directors of the Montgomery County TeaParty PAC request your urgent attention regarding SH 249. We urge you to read the petition below and act on its contents. We feel that Montgomery County does not want or need to be in the toll road business furthermore neither does Texas.
God Bless Texas,
Patricia Tibbs, President
“Stop the tolling of SH 249 in Montgomery County.
“Whereas: State funding for highways and roads already comes from the state 20 cents per gallon motor fuel tax and the federal 18.4 cents per gallon motor fuel tax and vehicle registrations.
“Whereas: the republican party platform states: “We oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop-up, or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private, and we call upon both state and federal lawmakers to adequately fund our highways without hidden taxes, tolls, or raiding emergency funds.”
“Whereas: tolling these roads is a double taxation scheme.
“Whereas: Toll roads in Texas have proven to be a never ending source of additional taxes on drivers and taxpayers.
“Whereas: Toll roads too often sell road builds with public funds to private interests.
“Whereas: Governor Abbott campaigned on fixing Texas roads without adding new tolls.
“Therefore, be it resolved: We, the undersigned, demand Governor Abbott keep his campaign promise of no new toll roads, that all local county commissioners and any other elected or appointed officials with authority over this project reject tolling SH 249. Furthermore, we affirm the fact that TXDOT has the responsibility to fund, build, and maintain the 3.6 mile extension of SH 249 located within Montgomery County without any tolls.”
Tx-DOT’s proposed resolution for the Tx-249 tollway portion that Tx-DOT is construction follows:
“In Grimes and Montgomery Counties, on a new location, an extension of State Highway 249 (SH 249), from FM 1774 in Pinehurst, Texas to SH 105 near Navasota, Texas (State Highway 249 Extension), is currently planned as a two-lane to four-lane divided highway on the state highway system. The proposed construction of Segment 1 from FM 1774 in Pinehurst in Montgomery County to FM 1774 in Todd Mission in Grimes County consists of an up to four-lane, controlled access toll road with intermittent two-lane, non-tolled, one-way frontage roads in each direction.
“Transportation Code, §228.051 provides that the Texas Transportation Commission (commission), by order, may designate one or more lanes of a segment of the state highway system as a toll project or system.
“Transportation Code, §203.003, authorizes the commission to lay out, construct, maintain, and operate a designated state highway, with control of access as necessary to facilitate the flow of traffic and promote the public safety and welfare.
“The SH 249 Extension Segment 1, from FM 1774 in Pinehurst, Texas to FM 1774 in Todd Mission, Texas was environmentally cleared through the department’s issuance of a record of decision for Segment 1 on January 12, 2016.
“IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED by the commission that Segment 1 of the State Highway 249 Extension from FM 1774 in Pinehurst, in Montgomery County to FM 1774 in Todd Mission, in Grimes County, is designated as a toll project on the state highway system.