The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe and The Woodlands, May 26 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court released a draft of its 2021 Major Thoroughfare Plan yesterday, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, and invited public comment on it. The updated Major Thoroughfare Plan continues to have the Woodlands Parkway Extension (WPX), the unpopular road project connected Woodlands Parkway to TX 249, also known as the “Decimation of Hope Highway.” Voters rejected WPX in the May, 2015, bond election.
On July 9, 2019, however, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted 3 to 2 (with Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack and County Judge Mark Keough dissenting) to proceed with construction of WPX under the new name, which its primary advocate, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, had proposed, the “Woodbranch Extension.” The Woodbranch Extension is identical to WPX except that that the eastern terminus of the road intersects with F.M. 2978 one-quarter of a mile south of the intersection of Woodlands Parkway and F.M. 2978.
The 2021 Major Thoroughfare Plan, which updates the 2016 plan, will provide a map of proposed and existing thoroughfares and collector roads throughout each of the four precincts in Montgomery County. The interactive map indicates amendments to the previous plan, such as roads that were added, removed, realigned or reclassified from 2016 to 2021.
Riley and Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack both had promised citizens that WPX would no longer appear on the Major Thoroughfare Plan, which Brown and Gay Engineers is preparing for the County government. Noack has opposed inclusion of WPX on the Plan and confirmed his steady opposition in an interview with this newspaper last night. Riley, however, has continued to insist that the WPX remain on the Plan.
The study to update the plan takes into account recent and future population, employment and vehicle traffic growth; and performance of the existing and proposed roadway networks. The updated plan will include prioritized lists of short, mid and long-term recommended improvements, funding opportunities and tiered implementation strategy. It will incorporate findings from the Precinct 3 South Montgomery County Mobility Study, which Noack had commissioned, as well as the ongoing Precinct 2 and Precinct 4 mobility studies.
The comment period on the virtual public meeting website will end at noon on Friday, June 11. The final recommended 2021 MTFP is expected to be presented to Montgomery Commissioners Court by the end of July. Citizens interested in viewing the plan or commenting on it may the virtual public meeting room at https://www.projectinformation.com/MontgomeryMTFP/.
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 spent $135,279.80 on moving WPX forward
Riley placed on the agenda for the July 9, 2019, 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.
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.
Real estate developer Tim Weems was downright giddy in the Commissioners Courtroom in 2019, after his beloved WPX sailed through the Commissioners Court on a 3 to 2 vote.
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. Noack ruined the secrecy when he demanded that the Court move the item to the open agenda for a full vote by each members of the Commissioners Court.