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County looks at new toll road projects

By: SESHADRI KUMAR, Editor, Houston Community Newspapers

As the Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road has been completed and is attracting the projected traffic, county commissioners are now looking at extending the toll road by another two miles from Highway 6 to Sienna Parkway.

Also, creating toll booths on Grand Parkway between I-10 and U.S. 59 is under consideration.

The Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road is attracting traffic as projected and may exceed expectations :blink: in 2006-2007, says the FBTRA Chairman Norm Mason.

The daily transactions on the toll road is now over 8,200, Mason told commissioners court last week.

In 2006, the daily transactions are expected to be between 15,000 and 20,000. By that time, the Highway 6 intersection would have been completed and Lake Olympia Parkway tied to the toll road.

Bill Jameson, consultant to the toll road authority, told commissioners court last week that the toll road project has been completed within the budget and the final cost is expected to be $1 million to $2 million under the budgeted amount of $60 million.

The only remaining work on the toll road is landscaping and connection to the Sam Houston Tollway.

Construction has begun on the Westpark Toll Road and the project is expected to be ready by October or November of next year, soon after Harris County completes its section of the toll road up to FM 1464 in Fort Bend.

The toll road authority then presented preliminary feasibility studies on extending the Fort Bend parkway Toll Road and the Grand Parkway.

To perform the feasibility study, environmental impact study and right-of-way acquisition for the two-mile segment, the estimated cost is $2.9 million.

The county has been preparing to apply for federal funds to build the toll road from Highway 6 to the proposed Grand Parkway, crossing the Brazos River.

Since that funding is not expected before 2010, the county wants to build the first two-mile segment on its own and complete it by 2008.

The county may have to issue another set of toll road bonds to finance the construction, which may cost upwards of $30 million.

Commissioners court has to find at least $350,000 immediately to proceed with the project. Brown & Gay Engineers, who already have a contract with the county for the feasibility study on the toll road extension, may have the money and do the required study by changing original scope of the contract.

Commissioners court is expected to finalize the exact wording of the new project contract and approve it at th next meeting.

Turner Collie and Braden Engineers have completed an initial assessment of the tolled intersections on the Grand Parkway between I-10 and U.S. 59. The proposal involves building at least 10 intersections including at FM 1093, Bellaire, Peak, Mason, Harlem, FM 1464, US 90A, Sand Hill, New Territory Blvd. and River Park Blvd.

The estimated project cost is $115 million, including the debt service costs. The tolled intersections are expected to generate $6 million in the opening year and over 25 years, the total estimated revenue is $237 million. That will help build the Grand Parkway between I-10 and U.S. 59. (A-HA!!!!) :o

Commissioners court has agreed in principle to approve another $150,000 for TCB to prepare a toll feasibility for building and tolling overpasses and to begin negotiations with other likely participants such as the Texas Department of Transportation and the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

A third proposal by Carter & Burgess Engineers to convert the free two-lane FM 723 from Brazos River to I-10 into a four-lane toll road, received no support from commissioners court because of the like protest from the public :P for converting a free road into a toll road.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

Well, I ended up taking Matt into work the other day, so I dropped him off at the hospital and headed down Main/90 toward the SH Toll Road. Sometimes I go home that way and take it all the way to Memorial but today I was on a mission. I wanted to see how far they've come on the Fort Bend Toll Road and I have to say I was impressed but left with a few questions.

They have completed it to Beltway 8, pretty much. I entered the Toll Road and there was no one on it save for an SBC truck that ended up passing me because I was too busy looking all around at the development and just the road itself.

The road is well done and attractive, but only two lanes on either side. My initial concern was the rapid growth of the area and the fact that the Toll Road has no official "off-ramp" to Highway 6. It just ends, period, and you go left or right. I can see how that might be a problem in a few short years. I hope they have a solution for that.

The toll booths are interesting. There are two EZ Tag lanes, one exact change lane, and one "change for bills" lane. It is an unmanned change machine that will change out your $1 or $5. Interesting, like I said. I am anxious to see how well that does. The biggest issue I can see happening is that there is no signage that there are no manned toll booths. If there is a problem I do not know how that will be handled. What if you only have a $20? What if the gate arm doesn't open? ...that kind of thing. Other than those two things everything seems to be on the right track.

What is so amazing to me is that this toll road plows right through the middle of the crop of gigantic antennae that stick out of the landscape. These towers from afar are amazing enough but to see them in person up close gives you a sense of just how HUGE they are and what exactly has to hold them to the ground so they don't blow over. It is truly incredible and gave me a whole new appreciation for them.

If you are interested in a quick commute to the med center, your best bet will be to live in Lake Olympia. There is an on and off-ramp just for Lake Olympia Parkway, which is scheduled to be completed to the toll road by summer. I like the trees found in Sienna Plantation or else I'd be lined up in front of the builders' models at Lake Olympia most definitely. That will be a huge feature for that master-planned community, and also will serve Quail Valley residents as well since they can cut right through to Lake Olympia Parkway easily.

It took me 6 minutes to get from Beltway 8 to Highway 6. Of course we are talking about no traffic, but it took me 14 minutes to get from MD Anderson to the Beltway on Main. That's not bad--and considering HCTRA is working on the toll road from the Beltway/County line to pretty much where Main expands to a large freeway near 610, I can see that drive becoming even shorter as time goes on. I can also see how the Fannin/South park-n-ride for Metro might become a lot more popular once this all gets in sync.

I also timed my drive from the FBTR/Hwy 6 interchange to the heart of Sienna Plantation at Steep Bank Drive. It took less than 6 minutes and that was with plenty of cars on the road. That was nice.

It made Sienna Plantation all the more appealing to me. The thought of my husband being home from work in traffic in less than an hour makes me absolutely GIDDY! Right now we are near Town & Country but Matt has to go 6 miles out to Highway 6's Park-n-Ride and take the bus in. It takes him about 45 minutes in the morning, but at night it can take him over an hour and a half to get home. If he leaves at 5 then I don't see him until after 6, and if he leaves at 6 I definitely won't see him until 7:30. It sucks. :(

I would like to take the route again and time it from one end to the other, start to finish, and take some photos along the way. I wish that I had my camera but it's a lesson to me to always bring it because you never know what you might find!

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As far as the size of the tollway, four lanes is plenty enough unless the road sees the success of the West Belt. There are provisions to widen the toll road to 6 lanes if the traffic warrants it.

I've worked on the drainage for the McHard road interchange. Our company did the interchange design.

Its neat to see it built after you've worked on it.

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In my opinion, with the growth of that area in just the past two years alone, it will most definitely be as successful. I think it's just a matter of how soon. Either way, they have something a lot of the West Belt doesn't have: land to grow on both sides! :)

It really must be very cool to see the results of your own hard work on something like that.

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I would like to take the route again and time it from one end to the other, start to finish, and take some photos along the way. I wish that I had my camera but it's a lesson to me to always bring it because you never know what you might find!

Polly,

I have driven from the Galleria area (Post Oak Central) to Sienna Plantation twice now during rush hour. I left my office at exaclty 5:30 and took Post Oak to 59 to BW8 to FB Tollway to Sienna Parkway and I was in Shipmen's Landing in 35 minutes both times. I was lucky that Post Oak was not backed up either day. It is a crapshoot and will add 15 minutes to 59 on a bad day. But that is not too bad from the Galleria if you ask me. My Fiance works Downtown and I think it would be more difficult for her to get to Sienna (although it is great out there).

The FB Tollway is great and once it is complted all the way to 610 it will be amazing for those residents you mentioned.

What is funny is that it takes me 20-30 mintues to get home from the Galleria to Midtown right now at that same time. There is no fast way to get there. Memorial does not work because everyone is getting on 610 to head North. 59 does not work because of the Spur construction. I have found the best way to get to Midtown in the afternoon is to take Westhiemer all the way. The lights are poorly timed and I sit at many lights. I think driving to Sienna is actually more peaceful.

With all that said, I think we are staying put in Midtown for a few more years. Until we have kids there is no real need for more space.

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Try and use Richmond from Midtown.

It moves better. The lights are timed better and there are fewer of them.

I truly believe that people who live in the midtown and montrose area and work in Uptown should just avoid the freeways because Richmond even with a lot of traffic is not that bad.

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Try and use Richmond from Midtown.

It moves better.  The lights are timed better and there are fewer of them.

I truly believe that people who live in the midtown and montrose area and work in Uptown should just avoid the freeways because Richmond even with a lot of traffic is not that bad.

I take Richmond sometimes, but I find that I have to shoot over to Richmond and then back to Farview and that Montrose backs up. It might still be faster though. Thanks.

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Nope, thats a different toll way. I have also driven on Fort Bend Toll way from Sienna Plantation to BW8. It is indeed a very quick drive.

There is land on either side to expand. The Westpark tollway looks like it is stuck with 4 lanes (2 per side). If it takes off it might get congested real quick.

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Trophy, thanks for the useful info!! :) Wow, that is really incredible. Anything substantially under what poor Matt has to deal with now is fabulous. The only thing keeping him sane is that he isn't driving. At least the Park-n-Ride buses are comfy and he can relax for that hour/hour and a half :lol:

We are staying put ourselves until at least the majority of I-10 by us is complete or at the very least, mess-free ('cause it is SURE messy by our place right now LOL) and we estimate that to be another two years. Our first baby is due in June and she'll be two by that time so hopefully we can make some decisions before she will be off to preschool. It is really going to depend on how strong our property values become as a result of the construction.

So hey, ya never know, we may be neighbors someday! :lol:

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There is land on either side to expand.  The Westpark tollway looks like it is stuck with 4 lanes (2 per side).    If it takes off it might get congested real quick.

I screwed up. Just wanted to comment that they'll just raise the toll if it gets too congested. Since it's all electronic it will be easy to have variable pricing-they can charge more at peak times.

I've been using the Westpark to get to my office in the Sharpstown area from far West Houston. There's an exit right at Fondren. It's very convenient.

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I screwed up.  Just wanted to comment that they'll just raise the toll if it gets too congested.  Since it's all electronic it will be easy to have variable pricing-they can charge more at peak times.

I've been using the Westpark to get to my office in the Sharpstown area from far West Houston.  There's an exit right at Fondren.  It's very convenient.

Both the Westpark and the FB Tollway's are awesome. I for one would be willing to pay to decrease my drive time. I was reading where the Hardy TR is going to be expanded all the way to downtown.

I could see in the future where there will be alternative tollways parallel to all the major highways. I think there will be a demand as the city continues to grow.

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go to the Fort Bend County Toll Road website. They have a bunch of pictures of this project. All the sections withing the Belt would be part of HCTRA instead.

They also have a bunch of pics of the Westpark Tollroad portion in Fort Bend County.

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How is the traffic on Fort Bend Tollroad in the morning peak hours?

according its design, it should not have serious a traffic problem because it doesn't have a lot of on-ramps. The only bottleneck may generate in the section which connects with US90A. Is my analyse close enough? Thanks

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I don't know how it is at S. Main because I don't drive it, but I live near S. Post Oak and Willowbend Dr, and S. Post Oak is getting really crowded in the mornings and afternoons. A lot of people who drive the tollway are stuck because like you said, where it drops off you either take S. Main up to 610 near Reliant (makes sense if you're going to the Medical Center or Downtown on 288), or if you want to go up to the Galleria area you take Bellfort or S. Post Oak to get to 610. That's where the mess is, and lots of people aren't happy about it. Westbury (Bellfort/Chimney Rock) isn't happy and Willowbend (S. Post Oak/Willowbend) isn't happy.

So the next step is to rip up S. Post Oak and turn it into a tollway to lead on to 610. That's in the works, but no one says when or if it is actually going to happen. www.texasfreeway.com may be of more help to you.

Look at a map and picture that whole section between getting dropped off at S. Main to get to 610 as bumper to bumper.

Jason

How is the traffic on Fort Bend Tollroad in the morning peak hours?

according its design, it should not have serious a traffic problem because it doesn't have a lot of on-ramps. The only bottleneck may generate in the section which connects with US90A. Is my analyse close enough? Thanks

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For getting to the Med. Center, I'm sure it's a godsend because S. Main is like a freeway all the way to 610. But if you live down in Missouri City or Sienna Plantation and you want to avoid 59 and get to the Galleria/Bellaire/Greenway, you get dropped off at Chimney Rock or S. Main & S. Post Oak. Then you drive up Bellfort or S. Post Oak to the on ramp of 610 at Bellfort & S. Post Oak. That's where it's a problem. There are schematics of the Ft. Bend Tollway extending from S. Main where it stops now to go all the way to the 610 loop, but they are on hold.

I actually can't be sure if all that traffic is coming from the Ft. Bend Tollway, but it's gotten worse since that opened. There are also a lot of people coming from neighborhoods South of S. Main that drive up S. Post Oak to 610.

Jason

I thought the concept was to speed people into and out off the Medical Center (or Main Street) area to Ft. Bend. If it's backing up around Post Oak, that seems like a serious design flaw.
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Willowbend Civic Club had HCTRA at our last general meeting and they said that the extension to extend the tollway from Main to 610 is on hold for the foreseeable future. They said that they learned a lot from the Westpark Tollway and that they will have to do a lot of research before putting a tollway adjacent to a neighborhood (Willowbend, Post Oak Manor).

My question though is more about S. Post Oak. I have lived adjacent to S. Post Oak for nearly 3 years now and I've noticed more and more people using its 6 lanes for their commute. It is bumper to bumper as early as 6:30am. Where is everyone coming from?! I'm sure all the people are frustrated with this area as it gets backed up every day and there seems to be no end to it.

Someone at the meeting suggested fly-over/no stop-light entrance ramps from S. Main "freeway" to 610. Could this work? People would possibly be more encouraged to take S. Main to 610 and leave that little "short-cut" of S. Post Oak out of the equation, even if it meant an extra mile and a half of driving.

Anyone see a solution to the woes of S. Post Oak's morning drive?

Jason

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Someone at the meeting suggested fly-over/no stop-light entrance ramps from S. Main "freeway" to 610. Could this work? People would possibly be more encouraged to take S. Main to 610 and leave that little "short-cut" of S. Post Oak out of the equation, even if it meant an extra mile and a half of driving.

Anyone see a solution to the woes of S. Post Oak's morning drive?

Jason

The difference between the two routes is 2.7 miles. For the detour to S. Main flyovers to make sense for a commuter, it'd require that they be able to keep an average speed for that segment that was 2.1 times that of the average speed using the Post Oak route; and that isn't counting for out-of-pocket expenses or vehicle depreciation, so I'd just round it up to 2.5 times the Post Oak speed for a good rule-of-thumb number. That means that if the speed on Post Oak averages 20mph, the detour would have to average 50mph. Since the South Loop typically is congested from about Stella Link (or further) in the mornings, and considering that the flyovers would increase the volume of traffic along that segment, I'd be doubtful that it would be seen as a viable option for most people. ...and of course, looking forward five to ten years, the development of the 288 corridor is probably going to result in increased congestion along that route even in a no-build scenario.

Rather than just fighting it outright, I'd suggest that the civic associations push for a configuration that is more amenable to your quality of life concerns. Check out the intersections of Wayside & Lawndale and OST & Griggs. Grade seperations at intersections allow for greater volumes of traffic to be handled, but at the same time, they don't take up as much right of way or cause major access limitations to adjacent commercial properties, and when below-grade, it also reduces traffic noise. Also use landscaping to help mitigate noise, just as Bellaire has done along the West Loop.

I'd imagine that the ideal outcome would be to reconstruct that segment of Post Oak with a trenched toll road with the existing road cantilevered at the sides so as not to reduce capacity or access available to the neighborhoods. That is expensive, of course, but if the HCTRA can't afford it, then I'd suggest that you talk to your state legislators and city officials about setting up a Public Improvement District (PID) or something similar so as to pay for the extra costs with a special taxing jurisdiction. If it's that difficult for you folks to get around as it is--and it isn't going to get any better on its own--this may actually be a viable option. ...and one that could serve as a pilot program for other places in Texas with similar issues.

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I like that idea quite a bit. I'm probably one of the few in the neighborhood "slightly" in favor of HCTRA taking over the road. I feel like the city or state doesn't take care of it. The soundwall is woefully inadequete and they don't use any new technologies like putting a sound barrier on the bridge, or using sound absorbtive (sp?) asphalt or anything, especially beautification as Bellaire has done. I've planted more trees in the last 3 years along that stretch than they have I bet. So I feel like my needs would be served by a toll road, but it seems like one of those be careful what you wish for propositions.

2.7 miles, eh? If S. Post Oak averages 20mph between those 2 streets I'd be surprised. Fortunately, I get on at Willowbend so I don't have to drive it all the way from S. Main.

Thanks for the input.

Jason

The difference between the two routes is 2.7 miles. For the detour to S. Main flyovers to make sense for a commuter, it'd require that they be able to keep an average speed for that segment that was 2.1 times that of the average speed using the Post Oak route; and that isn't counting for out-of-pocket expenses or vehicle depreciation, so I'd just round it up to 2.5 times the Post Oak speed for a good rule-of-thumb number. That means that if the speed on Post Oak averages 20mph, the detour would have to average 50mph. Since the South Loop typically is congested from about Stella Link (or further) in the mornings, and considering that the flyovers would increase the volume of traffic along that segment, I'd be doubtful that it would be seen as a viable option for most people. ...and of course, looking forward five to ten years, the development of the 288 corridor is probably going to result in increased congestion along that route even in a no-build scenario.

Rather than just fighting it outright, I'd suggest that the civic associations push for a configuration that is more amenable to your quality of life concerns. Check out the intersections of Wayside & Lawndale and OST & Griggs. Grade seperations at intersections allow for greater volumes of traffic to be handled, but at the same time, they don't take up as much right of way or cause major access limitations to adjacent commercial properties, and when below-grade, it also reduces traffic noise. Also use landscaping to help mitigate noise, just as Bellaire has done along the West Loop.

I'd imagine that the ideal outcome would be to reconstruct that segment of Post Oak with a trenched toll road with the existing road cantilevered at the sides so as not to reduce capacity or access available to the neighborhoods. That is expensive, of course, but if the HCTRA can't afford it, then I'd suggest that you talk to your state legislators and city officials about setting up a Public Improvement District (PID) or something similar so as to pay for the extra costs with a special taxing jurisdiction. If it's that difficult for you folks to get around as it is--and it isn't going to get any better on its own--this may actually be a viable option. ...and one that could serve as a pilot program for other places in Texas with similar issues.

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I attended the Willowbend Civic Association meeting two weeks ago where an engineer and an operations manager from HCTRA discussed the possible extension of the Fort Bend County Tollway to 610 via South Post Oak.

Because the HCTRA has many other projects in the planning or schematic stage, I understood that the actual construction of the South Post Oak extension may take years. However, the HCTRA personnel at the meeting stated that HCTRA would appoint an engineer by the end of 2008 who would devise a plan to extend the Fort Bend County Tollway in the subsequent 9 months (2009). I heard the HCTRA operations manager strongly suggest that impacted neighbors have the next 18 months to offer questions, suggestions and feedback. Once HCTRA adopts a plan, the neighborhoods will have little recourse.

Gay

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  • 4 months later...
Interesting. It looks kind of desolate in the photos.

Very desolate out there which was probably one of the reasons to take the cash machines out of the toll plaza (too easy to hijack), plus they can now can go after the toll runners and collect the $1 fee plus $17 service fee. Win Win for the Toll Road Authority.....

Edited by Dub
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  • Highrise Tower changed the title to Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road

Yeah this is weird. Is it possible the $350 million actually reflects the total cost of a much larger project or silo of funding this comes out of and is on the permit due to some arcane bureaucratic procedure? It's still a ton of dough though, even if they were proposing to extend the mainlanes of the Fort Bend Tollway below grade underpass beneath the feeders and train tracks with the South Main overpass and existing flyovers above(looking at the location in google maps it almost seems like this was planned because there's a pavement stub where the tollway ends and the ramps split off from the outside to go up and over.), would it cost that much?

 

I don't know if that intersection even really needs that much improvement since it just dumps into West Airport anyways with another light. What might be more interesting is if they finally had West Airport and regular Airport connect, with a bridge over the tracks/freeway then curve around and buy out/eminent domain a couple small properties to join up. They already shamelessly carved up that subdivision east of Buffalo Speedway to create a seemingly redundant east-west linkage to Hiram Clarke. Maybe it could go all the way?

Or maybe the paperwork clerk down at TDLR needs to call the help desk for a new keyboard, the zero key is stuck.

Edited by zaphod
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2 hours ago, zaphod said:

Yeah this is weird. Is it possible the $350 million actually reflects the total cost of a much larger project or silo of funding this comes out of and is on the permit due to some arcane bureaucratic procedure? It's still a ton of dough though, even if they were proposing to extend the mainlanes of the Fort Bend Tollway below grade underpass beneath the feeders and train tracks with the South Main overpass and existing flyovers above(looking at the location in google maps it almost seems like this was planned because there's a pavement stub where the tollway ends and the ramps split off from the outside to go up and over.), would it cost that much?

 

I don't know if that intersection even really needs that much improvement since it just dumps into West Airport anyways with another light. What might be more interesting is if they finally had West Airport and regular Airport connect, with a bridge over the tracks/freeway then curve around and buy out/eminent domain a couple small properties to join up. They already shamelessly carved up that subdivision east of Buffalo Speedway to create a seemingly redundant east-west linkage to Hiram Clarke. Maybe it could go all the way?

Or maybe the paperwork clerk down at TDLR needs to call the help desk for a new keyboard, the zero key is stuck.

$5M for the work and $345M for the kickbacks.

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It sounds like they're completing the gaps in the feeders between S. Main and W. Orem going by the description, but those gaps are less than 1/2 mi, and should be WAY less than $350m.

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On 2/6/2021 at 11:53 AM, zaphod said:

I don't know if that intersection even really needs that much improvement since it just dumps into West Airport anyways with another light. What might be more interesting is if they finally had West Airport and regular Airport connect, with a bridge over the tracks/freeway then curve around and buy out/eminent domain a couple small properties to join up. They already shamelessly carved up that subdivision east of Buffalo Speedway to create a seemingly redundant east-west linkage to Hiram Clarke. Maybe it could go all the way?

There are plans for an eventual W. Airport overpass. It was seen here in the schematics for the US90A freeway in the early 2000s: http://www.texasfreeway.com/Houston/schematics/90a/images/90a_7_west_airport.jpg

You can see the stubouts for the eventual connection on the EB feeder

https://goo.gl/maps/f4NH56ebsgQg58Fy8

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I found this little tidbit in the 2021-2025 CIP document ( https://www.houstontx.gov/cip/21cipadopt/e_street.pdf  )

The only expenditure for this project is in 2021 for, you guessed it, $5.1M.

Quote

N-100036 Chimney Rock Connection at Ft Bend Toll Fiscal 2021   Project Total 5,100

Total is in 1,000's

I'm sure there's more to this, but it sure looks strange on the surface.

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