Conroe, TX — According to a letter from TxDOT Executive Director James Bass to County Judge Craig Doyal Monday, if the county fails to meet its contractual obligation to build 249 as a toll road, the project would be “unfunded.”
According to the letter, “Should the county decide not to deliver their portion as a toll road, the option of delivering a toll road would then come before the Texas Transportation Commission. If the Commissioner were to elect to not deliver the project as a toll road the project would be unfunded and would need to go through the normal project funding process which would begin at the MPO level where it would compete against other unfunded highway needs.”
Judge Doyal said “Once again, as it has in the past, TxDOT has made it very clear to this county that ignoring our obligations and demanding TxDOT magically produce funds it does not have to build our portion of 249 for ‘free’ is a politically-driven fantasy.”
“Southwest Montgomery County needs this mobility now. Elsewhere TxDOT officials have indicated it would be 5 to 10 years or longer before the funds might be available to move this project forward through the normal project funding process. It is time for us to move forward with this project. And since the state plans its projects 10 years out, that means they would have to drop funding on another project to put 249 in its place, thereby possibly threatening other state projects in this county.”
The Montgomery County Toll Road Authority is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the contract for the county’s portion of 249. It also will vote on setting up the financing for the project, which will be funded through toll revenue bonds, to be repaid by the tolls raised from the project, as opposed to general obligation bonds, for which county taxpayers would be responsible.
According to a financial analysis of a completed traffic and revenue study for the proposed SH 249, the project is highly viable, with the proposed revenue from projected traffic counts easily paying for the project.
The Montgomery County Toll Road Authority proposes funding the multi-million-dollar project with revenue bonds purchased by investors. The MCTRA 249 Tollway Comprehensive Traffic and Revenue (T&R) Study, produced by CDM Smith, will help facilitate sale of the bonds that will fund project costs.
Among the study’s findings:
· The project will generate in excess of $400 million in revenue in its first 20 years, from 2020 to 2040 – more than enough to pay for the bonds needed to finance the toll road authority’s segment of 249, including a plan to add a third lane in each direction.
· This project is a planned three-mile extension of HCTRA’s 249 Tomball Tollway from the Harris County Line to Woodtrace Boulevard and is expected to open to traffic January 2020. Furthermore, it is a three-plus-mile section connecting two other toll road portions: TxDOT’s SH 249 Tollway and HCTRA’s 249 Tomball Tollway.
· HCTRA’s 249 Tollway is currently open to traffic from Spring Cypress Road to FM 2920, and is currently exceeding prior traffic projections completed before opening. HCTRA is extending the 249 Tomball Tollway from FM 2920 to the Montgomery County line.
· Annual transactions are expected to be 4.4 million in 2020 and are projected to increase to more than 13.6 million in 2030 and 22.9 million in 2040. This represents a growth of 11.8 percent per year in transactions for the ten years following 2020 and 5.3 percent per year for the period between 2030 and 2040.
· With the projected annual growth in traffic and the projected annual toll increases, revenue is expected to grow at an average rate of about 11.4 percent per year between 2020 and 2040, from $5.0 million in 2020 to $43.8 million in 2040. It is important to note that growth in traffic and revenue on this facility is highly dependent on future developments in the corridor. It is also important to note the study specifically excluded a Woodlands Parkway extension and any impact that roadway would have if it is ever built. Changes to the rate of development growth from the study assumptions will result in changes to the traffic and revenue presented.
· The anticipated toll rate of $1.25 covers the segment from FM 2920 in Harris County to Woodtrace Blvd in Montgomery County, a distance of over 5.2 miles. This rate is lower than HCTRA’s mainlane toll rate of $1.50 for segment 1 of the Tomball Tollway, a distance of six miles.