The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is in the process of deciding the route for a planned extension of State Highway 249. “The preferred route crosses F.M. 1774 south of Plantersville and connects to SH 105,” said TxDOT spokesman Bobby Colwell. The majority of the new route will be a newly constructed road. “TxDOT continues to consider refinements to the route to reduce any impacts to property owners.”
On the one hand, TxDOT, with its power of eminent domain, can strip landowners of their property as they deem necessary. These takings, combined with the inconveniences and inevitable damages caused by construction are bound to make life more difficult for residents. On the other hand, the road, once completed, could provide faster traveling times to Houston. Commutes from smaller towns in the county to larger cities often take longer without a major highway, which hinders access to industry and better-paying jobs. Grimes County Judge Ben Leman, who has been collecting opinions from potentially affected landowners, believes that despite the costs imposed on residents, the road could be a net positive for the community.
However, it seems that Leman does not speak for everyone. Some residents have banded together to form a group called “Stop Grimes 249.” The group is encouraging community members to contact their county commissioners and urge them to choose the “No Build” option. They are also asking TxDOT to reallocate the funds towards improving State Highway 105 and Interstate FM 1774 instead. These residents are rightfully concerned that many properties will be damaged and destroyed by the construction process. Additionally, there are worries that the remaining properties may not even benefit from the economic opportunities purported by highway advocates as they will not have access to the new toll road.
A public hearing is anticipated in early 2016, while construction could begin as early as 2017 in some parts of the corridor.
Co-authored by Justin Hodge, Christopher Chan and Maithili Bagaria.